Extending the commitment they made a year ago, the San Francisco 49ers announced last week that they will award $5 million in grants over the next 10 years to both local and national social justice organizations that are creating change in the Bay Area. The team awarded $1 million dollars to 10 social justice organizations in September 2020.
Last Tuesday, 49ers general manager John Lynch led the personnel department in hosting the first in-person, 90-minute mentoring session with one of last year’s grantees, 100 Black Men of the Bay Area. The session took place at Levi’s Stadium and Lynch was joined by DL Arik Armstead, LB Fred Warner, WR Trent Sherfield, CB Emmanuel Moseley and LB Azeez Al-Shaair.
“It was really special,” Warner said. “That was the first community relations event that we’ve had in person since 2019. So I was really just honored and blessed to be able to be a part of that and kind of just be involved in those conversations with those kids. And it was really cool.”
100 Black Men of the Bay Area and the 49ers Personnel Department have been doing 49ers Wisdom Tuesday, which meets monthly for mentoring and leadership development sessions. As a result, five student interns have been hired to develop a year-round Mentoring Opportunity League as a model for other communities.
“It was really special because you got to meet all the different kids, all different younger guys,” Al-Shaair said. “Just sharing your experiences with them, letting them know they’re not the only ones that have been through some of things that they’ve been through. Also just giving them different tips and motivation moving forward in life…So just giving them a little bit of guidance and a little direction on different things like leadership and just different issues or situations they might have had going on with themselves or with their teammates.”
For Al-Shaair, giving back stems from the hardships he experienced growing up.
“I had a really rough upbringing myself, so when I see a lot of those kids, I just see myself and I remember literally vividly as a child watching football, seeing guys, all things I used to talk about,” Al-Shaair said. “I just remember telling myself, I wish somebody could help me. I didn’t know I had the resources. I didn’t know where the resources were. I’m 15 years old at the time…my teen years, I just wanted somebody to help me. So I always just thought to myself, if I can get in the position to be here to be able to give back, I’m going to make sure I do everything I can to try to help as many people as I can.”
From making much-needed changes to California’s criminal justice system to providing meals to more than 3,200 families experiencing food insecurity, last year’s 49ers-backed social justice organizations have done some incredible work.
“My rookie year was a lot harder because I wasn’t sure how to get involved,” Al-Shaair said. “My head was just, spinning trying to figure out my own stuff with football. So it’s definitely a lot easier, because you can always find somebody on our team that’s doing something throughout the community. And if you’re trying to look for something to do, they definitely always give you something to do.”
Giving back to the community is a pillar of the 49ers organization, and that starts at the top.
“Without a doubt, where I see how this whole organization has been working and everybody in this organization, how they are about giving back and community service, when I talk to other players from other teams, you see it’s not the same,” Al-Shaair said. “So it’s just really second to none in my opinion.”
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