MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Miami Dolphins Social Impact Committee announced a series of initiatives designed to increase voter awareness and engagement throughout South Florida. The committee, in conjunction with the Miami Dolphins Foundation and an NFL Foundation social justice grant, will donate $100,000 to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Fines and Fees program, which assists returning citizens who have outstanding fees to complete their sentences and become eligible to vote. The donation will impact hundreds of people with past convictions, with a focus on Miami Gardens and the surrounding communities.
"This is a big step that shows the Miami Dolphins' commitment to the local community and building a more inclusive democracy in our state," said Desmond Meade, Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. "The FRRC Fines and Fees Fund helps people with past convictions move forward with their life and exercise their constitutional right to vote."
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is a statewide organization dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions and creating a more comprehensive and humane reentry system that will enhance successful reentry, reduce recidivism, and increase public safety.
In 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, ending a 150-year-old lifetime voting ban for 1.4 million Florida citizens with past felony convictions. Since the law passed, tens of thousands of those individuals have registered to vote across the state. Under the law, people with past felony convictions who have not completed all terms of their sentences must either pay the fees and fines they owe or get their sentence modified as a condition of registering to vote.
"Restoring voting rights to our citizens was only step one in this fight for change," said Elandon Roberts, Miami Dolphins Linebacker. "I am so excited and grateful to apart of a coalition that directly impacts our communities as we fight for better representation of our people in positions that matter. Personally, knowing someone who was wrongly convicted of a felony crime and still wishes nothing more but to make a positive difference in his community, makes it that much more crucial for me."
"Our committee works to have a direct impact on our community," said Patrick Laird, Miami Dolphins Running Back. "While the law restored the right to vote, in actuality many people are unable to exercise that right because of fines and fees. Restoring voting rights is a step in the right direction to get better representation, and ultimately, a better South Florida community."
The Miami Dolphins Social Impact Committee was formed by players to positively impact civic engagement, education and economic empowerment. In addition, players will take part in a PSA campaign to encourage voter awareness and engagement in collaboration with RISE to Vote and FOOTBALL UNITES™ partners ADL Florida, Miami NAACP, SAVE, the League of Women's Voters and The Women's Fund.
This announcement comes on the heels of Owner Stephen Ross and the Miami Dolphins Foundation committing at least $1 million will go directly to support minority owned restaurants. The year-long commitment has provided 1,000 meals each day prepared by Centerplate and local minority restaurants impacted by COVID-19 to assist those dealing with food insecurity in Miami Gardens and the surrounding communities.