NFL Players Association highlights the good in the game

George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director, external affairs, discusses the group's goals and strategies.

How did the association’s community MVP program get started?
In the aftermath of negative publicity around the 2014 incidents with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, I had a conversation with a member of the media who I trust and mentioned that I was frustrated with the outside coverage of these incidents.

I noted that our players do some amazing things every week and he said: "Just start tweeting about it."

One tweet led to another, and so on. A colleague of mine noticed it and said we should create our own community platform, and that is how it got started. We started in week two of the 2014 season and it is simply our way of recognizing the good work players do in the community.

We recognized 16 players in 2014 and early last December, we announced our 13th MVP recipient for the year.

Where are you promoting it and what feedback are you seeing?
We started primarily organically on the NFL Players Association Twitter feed [which has 109,000 followers].

Players started picking it up and promoting it on their Twitter and Facebook pages.

We saw the teams pick it up and do a post on their respective websites, which generated additional coverage for that player. We always see increases immediately after we announce the MVPs because the clubs, media, and players are sharing that content.

For example, the work done by the Buffalo Bills’ Sammy Watkins that led to his MVP award was highlighted by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo on Twitter and in his home state of Florida in the Naples Daily News. Watkins, who has 218,000 Twitter followers, shared the honor on his page as did the Bills, which has 446,000 Twitter followers.

What’s next for the NFL PA beyond the league’s regular season?
Our community platform has two main pillars: We’ve got the community MVP during the season and, in the offseason, we present our Byron "Whizzer" White award.

He was a former NFL player and was incredibly charitable and giving. It’s our version of the NFL’s Man of the Year, where players select nominees from their locker rooms who have demonstrated tremendous leadership off the field. We present the award and a $100,000 donation to that player’s charity. The nominees were announced in December and the winner will be revealed at Super Bowl 50 in February.

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