In the years since Malcolm Jenkins and Maya Moore started fighting for criminal justice reform and an end to racial injustice, public support for Black Lives Matter has grown significantly. But both athletes say that widespread support — evident in recent polling — is just a first step in creating meaningful change.
“Just like any game plan, any task, any movement, anything that has to be transformed, it comes in phases and parts,” said Moore in a joint TIME100 Talks discussion with Jenkins, moderated by ESPN columnist Pablo S. Torre. “So yes, awesome [polling] numbers are turning around. People are aware … The beginning is awareness and acknowledgement of the truth.”
Moore has taken a two-season hiatus as a WNBA forward to work on freeing Jonathan Irons, a man who was wrongfully convicted of burglary and assault. (Irons’ conviction was overturned in April and is now facing an appeal.) Jenkins, a New Orleans Saints safety, has long lobbied national and state lawmakers for criminal justice reform and works on social justice causes through his production company, Listen Up Media. He’s most recently produced a powerful Black Lives Matter video for the ESPY Awards and has signed on to produce a docu-series on Black wealth in America titled Little Africa.
The next step, Jenkins and Moore said, is to institute real societal reforms. The two have expressed support for defunding the police, a policy goal which doesn’t currently have the widespread support that the Black Lives Matter movement does. To change this, Moore and Jenkins said there is work to be done in helping people understand what “defunding” means.
“While people are afraid of the term ‘defund the police,’ it’s only because we’ve been conditioned to understand policing the way it has been since its inception in this country,” Jenkins said. “We are trying to reimagine how we function as a society. It’s not just a reform to the system that we have. We’re saying no, let’s … throw it out and start over.”
Moore said one key point in communication is noting that defunding the police doesn’t mean “devalue” — and that it’s not a personal attack. She likened the police to a sports team’s star player who is trying to cover too many positions, and isn’t effective in the process. The solution, she said, is to let police departments focus on core responsibilities and use diverted funds to increase resources for mental health and community building organizations.
“Speaking about [defunding] in a way that’s actually making you understand this will be better for everyone — we actually want to equip you and empower you, police, to be the best form of yourselves,” Moore said, “because we know it’s not working for every citizen in our country.”
“It’s got to change,” she continued. “And we’re starting to see that.”
This article is part of #TIME100Talks: Finding Hope, a special series featuring leaders across different fields encouraging action toward a better world. Want more? Sign up for access to more virtual events, including live conversations with influential newsmakers.