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Kelvin Beachum Takes Part In Super Bowl's 'Critical Conversation'

Cardinals tackle discusses role of player impact on NFL diversity issue

Kelvin Beachum smiles at a practice during the 2021 season.
Kelvin Beachum smiles at a practice during the 2021 season.

Kelvin Beachum makes a living by protecting quarterback Kyler Murray from sacks, but the offensive lineman's life mission is to better the world off the field.

It's why Beachum joined the seventh annual Rise Super Bowl Critical Conversation Wednesday night, a discussion featuring Miami Dolphins defensive back Jason McCourty, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard and Rise CEO Diahann Billings-Burford.

NFL Network's Jim Trotter moderated the conversation about diversity in hiring, systemic racism, education inequity, voter suppression and more.

With the NFL's diversity policy among head coaches and general managers a major topic, Beachum said that players with the most influence must speak up about the situation.

"As an offensive lineman, there is only so much I can do," Beachum said. "The quarterback has the most say and the most power within the locker room, to be honest with you. If you saw what happened in Buffalo, their head coach said 'Our quarterback would be part of the decision-making for the next offensive coordinator.' The power, even though people don't want to say this, is always in the hands of the quarterback."

Does Beachum think the league could do things better? Without question. Does Beachum want to see changes in upper-level management within the NFL? No question. But he feels encouraged since the issues have generated more attention now than in the past.

"I would say to have the conversations we've had with owners, that's a start," Beachum said. "I don't think you could have this conversation with owners 15 years ago, and that's just the truth. To even have this conversation in a public setting and be something the NFL promotes are steps in the right direction."

Beachum's well-documented charity work focuses much on inequalities and education. He donated 40-50 pieces of technology to underserved Arizona schools in November through The Digital Divide Donation with teammate Dennis Gardeck. Through his initiative "Kelvin Konnects," Beachum looks to provide students with careers within the science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics fields.

A decade into his NFL career, including tenures with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and now the Cardinals – Beachum has learned one thing: no matter the location, the problems still exist.

"It's hard to play football and realize when you leave the facility, these young people are still struggling with some of the same things," Beachum said. "We've been told, especially as African Americans, that education is the access to knowledge. Knowledge brings access to college. College brings access to wealth. Wealth brings access to happiness or whatever you want to tag along with that wealth. But is there an even playing field, just to be educated? Is there an equal playing field to be able to have internet access?

"It's a question I will grapple with over the long term because it's not an easy fix. But it's something I'm passionate about and it's something I'm not going to stop fighting for this. We're behind in the economy right now; we're getting smacked from a global standpoint. We have to make sure we invest in our young people, and in investing, we have to make sure they all have an even playing field."

Beachum said it was a "hard question" whether the aftermath of George Floyd's death in 2020 was a movement or just a moment, but in the end Beachum acknowledged it may just be a moment.

"There are still many things that haven't changed since then," Beachum said. "There are some movement qualities to what's occurred, but if this were all we hoped for, I think more change at a much more rapid pace would've been done.

"I don't know if you all have watched the Emmett Till documentary over the past weeks, but my wife and I have sat down and watched that. I've been down there to experience and go through where Emmett Till was destroyed in essence. You think about if that was a movement or moment. There has not been justice brought to that family yet."

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