We’ve almost made it to the 2023 Super Bowl, but not before we have a few more weeks of NFL social justice. The 2022–2023 season has been rife with injuries, scandal, and controversy. The latest bit of controversy is now the fact that many NFL players are wearing helmets that say platitudes like “Be Love” and “End Racism.”
While the sentiment is nice, some fans think players should just stick to playing the game, while others see the move as virtue signaling on the part of the NFL. So what exactly is “Be Love” on the NFL helmets and why are players wearing various slogans on helmets?
NFL players can choose to wear helmets with messages such as “Be Love” as part of an initiative.
Starting in 2017, the NFL decided to take the old adage, “With great power comes great responsibility,” into their hands by creating an initiative called “Inspire Change.” According to the NFL’s website, “Through Inspire Change, the NFL supports player-led efforts to engage with team owners, public officials, law enforcement, academic institutions, community partners, and others to identify meaningful ways to strengthen local communities and the greater society.”
While the helmet decals are part of this initiative, it actually does so much more than just put empty words on helmets. The NFL works with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called the Players Coalition in order to support different programs to help others. So far, they’ve provided grants to over 40 grant partners and hundreds of organizations, including the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, National Urban League, Ladies of Hope Ministries, and many more.
Another part of the initiative is that individual clubs match their players’ contributions to their own organizations of choice, which all 32 NFL clubs have opted into. From week 15 to week 18 in the past few years, the NFL has decided to highlight their efforts as part of the Inspire Change initiative. One way to do this is through the helmet decals, which players can choose to wear.
Over the years, there have been several options of which platitudes players can add to their helmets: “End Racism,” “Stop Hate,” “It Takes All of Us,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Inspire Change,” “Say Their Stories,” “Choose Love,” and now, “Be Love,” of which the latter two reference the overwhelming amount of gun violence and hate crime in America.
Now, fans are criticizing the move to add these slogans to helmets and the field. Some fans are just annoyed that NFL players need to make some sort of “political” stance. However, when “Choose Love” was added as an option, Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox said to ABC Sports (via Medium), “In a world that has so much hate, all we can do is choose love every day. Love is the most important trait we can have.”
One fan wrote on Twitter, “The NFL is trash with their social justice. Be love on their helmets. What a joke the NFL has become.” On the other hand, fans are quick to point out the hypocrisy between this movement and the game being played. “Awfully ironic to see, Be Love, on the back of the helmet of grown men paid to have high end collisions with one another over and over again,” another wrote.
And of course, we can’t help but notice the little copyright signal next to the slogan.
“The NFL advertised ‘be love’ on helmets then of course trademarked it so they can make tons of money from it,” someone pointed out. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that these slogans are just empty words full of virtue signaling, which is often defined as an action that shows care towards a cause without actually making a difference.
However, with the actual Inspire Change initiative behind the NFL and the players’ helmets, it’s clear that these slogans may just be a way to highlight the actual work being done behind the scenes.