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Redskins’ Josh Norman tackling education issues with Players Coalition

The cornerback spent time visiting schools to educate himself on the issues

On his day off, Josh Norman went to work.

The veteran cornerback and defensive leader of the NFC East-leading Washington Redskins was busy listening to educators and students talk about the state of education in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, trying to determine what he can do to help in his other key role as a vocal member of the Players Coalition. Norman has taken the lead in focusing the coalition’s efforts on education reform, and he gathered a lot of useful information during an all-day tour.

“The great thing about the coalition is that no one is expected to just focus everything in one area. Everyone is encouraged to get out there and find something you’re really passionate about,” Norman said after participating in the first of several panel discussions. “Education is … the lane I’m most suited for.

“If you’re not educating people … how can you go out and help someone else? How can you go out and be a positive role model in society? You can’t. Therefore, you’ve got to start with the basics. The ground rules of it all is educating yourself first. Once you educate yourself and you know what’s going on, then you can go out and do the things you need to [in order] to be successful. So this was something that was dear to me.”

Players Coalition

Although the coalition has most notably done extensive work in all manners of criminal justice reform — bail reform, sentencing reform, juvenile justice issues — the group views education reform as one of its pillars. The listening tours are designed to help the coalition identify problems and develop plans of action specific to each city. Besides the coalition potentially providing grants to programs, members also give their time as part of a grassroots approach to effect positive change in communities of color.

The coalition has continued to push forward with its work in the face of criticism from Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, a former member of the group who has personally attacked co-founder Malcolm Jenkins. Reid repeatedly has called Jenkins “a sellout” for Jenkins’ decision to stop protesting after accepting money from the NFL to fund social justice causes.

A fierce defender of Jenkins, Norman is frustrated about Reid’s attacks on the coalition.

“It’s kind of disheartening,” Norman said. “The facts are that we are here. We’re doing things to make positive change.”

Norman would usually spend Tuesday relaxing, especially after his heavy workload in Sunday’s 20-13 road victory over the division rival New York Giants. He played well, especially when matched up against Giants superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Nonetheless, Beckham torched the Redskins with eight receptions for 136 yards.

Players Coalition

Norman is used to challenges, having faced the NFL’s best receivers during his seven-year career. But he was moved by the students’ determination to stay in the game after overcoming real-life obstacles.

“I’m learning about a little bit of everything,” Norman said. “I’m learning that kids that tried to come to school, and it didn’t work for them the first time, came back again. And came back again. Now, it’s working for us.”

Several of the people who accompanied Norman throughout the day were similarly impressed with the resiliency exhibited by students. Former Redskins players Antwaan Randle El, Rock Cartwright and Khary Campbell also sought to learn how they could help. Not surprisingly, Norman and the former Washington players were treated like rock stars during the tour. They left as fans.

“I wanted to hear the issues. Now, what can I do, with my platform, to be able to help some of these issues?” Randle El said. “I’ve already got my mind turning about different things I can do to help. But then also bringing other guys on board to help and being consistent with that help.

“Even if it’s not in the big picture where you’re helping [many] schools, it could be where you’re helping a pocket of 10 kids and seeing those 10 kids grow.

“We all can do something. We’ve got to do something.”

Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at The Undefeated. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.