Going above and beyond looking to win football games on Sundays has always been a part of Kelvin Beachum’s DNA. He is looking to positively impact the world every day of the week.
Beachum has led by example through his community service during his entire career. The Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman’s prior off-the-field charitable work earned him the 2018 Walter Payton Man of The Year Award, and he is also the only NFL player to win the NFL Community MVP four years in a row (2016-2019):
“In every city that I’ve played in I’ve always made sure to be involved at the community level and to have conversations between government and the business community about these [social] issues. It’s no different here in Arizona. And I will continue to do that.”
This year was his first season in Arizona as part of the Cardinals, where part of Beachum’s job on the field was protecting QB Kyler Murray and opening holes in the run game, and he enjoyed his team and his teammates:
“Playing with and blocking for Kyler is amazing. I just never know where he’s at sometimes! He’s a phenomenal competitor – with his arm, his legs and his mind.”
Off-the-field, Beachum’s 2020 endeavors through the NFL Players Coalition were focused on the minds of America’s youth, specifically on combating education inequality:
“I’ve been speaking about education for years, but its really in the last year and half or so that I really began to focus on and see how important this infrastructure piece is in the development of our young people in America.
When you think about what is going on in American with the Digital Divide, you have people who are able to access the internet and able to access technology versus those who don’t, you get massive disparities in terms of access to education. And this problem has been exacerbated during COVID, in terms of those who have access to great virtual/remote education and those that do not.”
Kelvin’s recent $15,000 Digital Divide donation through Donor’s Choose funded 34 projects across different school districts, ranging from educational resources for students to clean water access. In the coming months, Kelvin will be collaborating with Microsoft to distribute technology to students in need.
Beachum is also focused on educating people about the digital divide and unequal online access, both with his feet and his pen, as well as on efforts to solve the problem with real long-term solutions.
To raise awareness about the cause of closing the digital divide , Kelvin recently penned an op-ed (“Op-Ed: Cardinals OL Kelvin Beachum says it’s time to close the digital divide”). The article addresses the disparities in education facing Black and brown communities with a call to action to join him and the Player’s Coalition to help reduce these barriers to opportunity.
To further spread the word, he also participated in the League’s My Cause Cleats campaign, for which he designed and wore cleats highlighting the “Digital Divide” issue. Beachum was among the NFL players participating in the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative, which highlights the efforts of NFL players speaking out and leading on social issues to help reduce barriers to opportunity and build a sustainable vision of equality, including this campaign.
As he explained, “I chose to focus on education, because education is the pathway to being able to be successful in life. It sounds cliché, but the habits of being a lifelong learner can take you anywhere in life, whether it’s getting you a job, a career, building a strong base financially, and at the end of the day, being able to truly accomplish the American Dream.”
In past years Kelvin has worked to reduce hunger through donations, volunteer work and serving as an Ambassador at Large for the Central Texas Food Bank. That was among the original social causes he focused on, as part of his effort to make sure to honor his roots and to give back to his hometown:
“For me it all started with wanting to do something for my hometown, which I was able to do with work on the hunger front and starting the food bank.
Every child who has a dream of wanting to be a professional player. That was the same dream I had. But at the same time, I also wanted to make sure to never forget where I came from, which is Mexia, Texas.
So for me, it was always, how can I give back to my hometown, which gave me so much.”
As he became more aware of the Digital Divide issue and volunteered in the education space, he became motivated to help solve that problem.
While the Digital Divide is a critical issue in so many of our communities, it may not be one being talked about enough these days. Beachum is looking to change that:
“It’s huge. But when it’s not happening to you, it’s not happening. And when it’s not on the national news, people don’t focus on it.
If you think about the impact, this is something that impacts so many homes of everyday Americans, whether in rural environments or urban environments, especially now when so much of us are relying on remote access for work and school.”
He recognizes that creating sustainable change takes a long-term commitment, and he is here for it, focusing on moving the cause forward both in terms of short term and long term goals.
For example, Beachum recently helped to facilitate the purchase of cell towers to bring Internet access to certain rural areas. But to really solve the larger problem and bring meaningful change, he recognizes that you have to go beyond contributing through a patchwork of these types of “band-aids.” That takes coalition building – talking to state, local and Federal politicians, business people in the community, and using his connections with the NFL and its ownership – and long-term planning:
“It’s one thing to talk about it. But I’m one of those people who want to do something about it. So, I want to get the right people on board, have the right conversations, and then find solutions.
Ultimately, we need to treat this like a public utility. Just like we treat water as a utility, the Internet should be treated the same way. Both are essential to have access to in our daily lives.
This is an infrastructure issue. You’re not building a bridge or a new road overnight. It takes time.”
As a veteran player with a passion for giving back, Kelvin believes that helping to show others how to leverage their platform for social good is an important part of his role.
Kelvin’s advice to other players looking to contribute on social issues is based on his own experience and advice that he learned from his mentors. When Beachum first entered the League as a Pittsburgh Steeler, as a young player from a small town in Texas, he was lucky to have a tremendous set of mentors who showed him the ropes about giving back:
“Every step of the way, I’ve been in different cities and learned from different players. I was in Pittsburgh, and I learned from people like Troy Polamalu, Max Starks, and Brett Keisel about how to give back.
And now its my turn. And I’m teaching the guys in my locker room or guys I played with on other teams. Guys like Christian Kirk on the Cardinals and other young guys I played with when I was on the Jets.
Over the years, I was exposed to issues and was always looking for ways to leverage my position and the opportunity I have had as a pro ballplayer for the greater good.
I tell folks to follow their passion and also to start small. And by that I mean, start by volunteering your time or making a small grant. See the ripple effect you can have personally. And then you can grow it from there.”
Photo Credit(s): Kelvin’s Cleats (Arizona Cardinals); Work in Education (courtesy of Kelvin Beachum); Video Credit (Players Coalition); On Field (AP Photo/Brian Westerholt)