Matthew Stafford heard his teammates on Zoom calls this spring. He heard a multitude of stories about their own experiences growing up, about social justice and the inequality issues in the United States. And as he listened, he started to think:
What can I do to help?
Part of that help manifested Friday, with Stafford and his wife, Kelly, completing a $1.5 million donation to the University of Georgia – part of which will go to social justice initiatives and scholarships for students in need.
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“Just trying to figure out what the best way to make an impact is and we’ve done some work here in the Detroit area,” Stafford said. “And wanted to do some work back where we spent our college years, and obviously Georgia was starting, thinking about starting this program, and we were obviously extremely happy to be a part of it.”
Of that money, $350,000 will go toward starting a social justice program within the Georgia athletic department to focus on effecting change when it comes to diversity, inclusion and social justice within all its programs.
They also are creating two scholarships to help students who can’t afford to attend Georgia even after receiving other financial aid. Part of the donation will also go to the Georgia football and cheerleading programs. Stafford met his wife when he was the quarterback and she a cheerleader at Georgia.
Stafford’s donation is the latest by an NFL quarterback for a social justice initiative. Earlier this summer, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott gave $1 million to help improve police training. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who is friends with the Staffords, gave $500,000 in support of a fundraiser he started to support Atlanta’s Black community.
For Stafford, this wasn’t about what other quarterbacks had done.
“I’m just doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do,” Stafford said. “You know, that’s what I believe in, what my wife believes in, what our family believes in. So we are just trying to do what we can to make a difference.
“You know, it wasn’t for anything else. It wasn’t for trying to lead QBs or anything like that. We were just trying to figure out how we can make a difference and help people along the way and we thought this was a good start and just happy to be a part of it.”
It is part of a larger public stance Stafford has taken recently on social justice initiatives. Earlier this summer, he spoke about voting rights and the importance of registering to vote during a town hall with Trey Flowers and Duron Harmon. He’s long been part of the franchise’s Inspire Change social justice committee, and he gave $1 million to the S.A.Y. Play Center in Detroit in 2015 to help rebuild an inner city rec center.
So while Stafford has long expressed interest in helping, there wasn’t one story he heard this spring that stood out. It was all of them.
“It was from everybody, and we gained a ton of perspective, gained a ton of knowledge and a bunch of respect for people,” Stafford said. “And just tried to figure out what we can do to help, and that’s kind of where we started, and like I said, it’s a start and just trying to do a little bit of something, a little bit of good and help out.”