"We're here talking about Las Vegas, with Las Vegas!"
This was the first sentiment spoken by Marcel Reece, Raiders Chief People Officer and former Silver & Black player who is now one of the highest-ranking Black executives in the NFL, at Allegiant Stadium on Wednesday, April 27. A very poignant sentiment as the league came together with Las Vegas leaders, activists, businessmen and educators on coming up with an answer on how to improve the city for all people.
After the NFL held a social justice roundtable in Los Angeles for the Super Bowl, the league wanted to bring the same call to action to the draft host city. The Raiders, now approaching their third season in the state of Nevada, joined in to hold the discussion at Allegiant Stadium as the team continuously explores the question "What more can we do for our new community?"
A variety of topics were addressed, including K-12 education in Clark County School District, housing segregation, how to invest in black-owned businesses, and how to develop healthy relationships between young people of color and the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. Dr. David Wall Rice, author and professor of psychology at Morehouse College, was the moderator for the event after doing the same for the roundtable conversation at the Super Bowl. The panelists included UNLV President Keith Whitfield, Kenadie Cobbin-Richardson, Roxann McCoy and Ken Evans.
The youngest of the panelists was Keren Jean-Charles, a rising senior and psychology major at UNLV. She's been involved in several student organizations and hosts the 'You Gon' Listen' podcast. Additionally, she was granted a $5,000 scholarship from the 100 Black Men of Las Vegas during the roundtable. Jean-Charles detailed how she has been a first-hand witness to the problems that have plagued Las Vegas her whole life, and wants to play a hand in resolving them after her graduation.
"All of these things coming to Las Vegas [are] a welcome addition to the city, but what is the cost for the locals?" she said. "My focus is community and I want to build a community resource center that helps people who are homeless in Las Vegas and other disenfranchised communities."
At the invite-only roundtable, the Raiders front office and staff made their impact felt. Owner Mark Davis, President Dan Ventrelle, Chief Financial Officer Michael Crome and members of B.A.S.E.D. In Sports, an Employee Resource Group within the Raiders organization whose mission is to support diversity and create an inclusive culture for employees at every level, were in attendance listening to the problems affecting Las Vegas in order to help find a way to take action. Another big name in attendance was a product of the city of Las Vegas and the Clark County School District – Steven Jackson.
Jackson is a former All-Pro running back who played in the NFL for 12 seasons – two of those with Raiders current head coach Josh McDaniels. Before he was a Pro Bowl running back, he was a Southern Nevada sensation at Eldorado High School. He felt it was important for him to be involved in the discussion about the city that made him the man he is, in the effort of helping other youth reach the same heights – whether those heights are in football or other avenues.
"When you think about potential and what one can accomplish, many of us are judged off grade school achievements," Jackson told Raiders.com. "So if one doesn't get the grades or the support at home and they've never had engagement with themselves, they really don't understand the potential they have or could be. And I think that starts all the way back to grade school."
"The more times you can get like-minded people in a room together, the more that can be achieved and the more that can be done," continued Jackson. "I think for far too many of our leaders, they're always isolated and we wear them down.They get burned out. That's why I'm excited about this event and what the Raiders are doing. They made a commitment to hold them accountable. And that doesn't usually happen. We usually just have a conversation and then we leave. So I'm really encouraged by what happened today. But I think the way we continue to do the change is by having leaders continue to invite other leaders in the room."
One of the leaders in the room active in changing the landscape of Las Vegas was Keith Whitfield. Whitfield is the current president of UNLV, the 11th president in school history and the first to be African American. Whitfield took over as president in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic after serving in multiple positions at Wayne State University. Whitfield is very optimistic about UNLV continuing to partner with the Raiders organization through community events and the Al Davis-Eddie Robinson Leadership Academy – an academy to develop minority coaching and general manager candidates in the NFL.
"Our society has changed, and it now places a higher value than I've ever known in my lifetime on equity and opportunity," said Whitfield. "I think a part of why we're here today is because the Raiders take a stand in that. There's things that you can diversify and that diversity makes things better, and I've felt since I've been here that the Raiders have had a commitment to that."
"Las Vegas needs to the ability to make it so education is better," continued Whitfield. "It leads to everything from a successful sports career to that successful job. It leads to the diversification of our economy here in the city. ... I think the leadership in Clark County School District couldn't be in better hands. We need to make it so every kid in Clark County has opportunity. If there's a dream they want to pursue, that we have an opportunity for them to be able to pursue it."
At the conclusion of the discussion, the Las Vegas Raiders made a commitment to have an open dialogue conversation with Las Vegas leaders and residents quarterly, while also marking the intention to host another social justice discussion in Allegiant Stadium for the Super Bowl in 2024.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas.