Commanders

Black History Month: For Jason Wright, activism runs deep

Commanders

When Jason Wright joined the Washington Football Team this past summer, he made history as the first Black president in NFL history. Wright didn't expect to be at the forefront of change in America, but if looking at his family background nobody should be surprised. 

Activism is in his blood, dating back to the man he got his middle name from, his great-great uncle, Charles Gomillion, and also his grandfather, Harlee Wright. 

A professor at Tuskegee University in Alabama, Gomillion helped win a landmark Supreme Court case that became instrumental in the Voting Rights Act getting passed in 1965.  Wright's grandfather, Harlee, was also an educator who got involved in civil rights activism with the NAACP. 

"[Harlee] got involved with, at the time, an organization that was considered a radical organization, by some considered a domestic terrorist organization," Wright told NBC Sports Washington. "He helped start NAACP chapters across east Texas, and when the school board found that out, they said, 'You can't work here.' He went and tried to work in the next town over and the next town over, and somehow they wouldn't take his calls and wouldn't take his resume, and eventually, they turned to farming.

"Even then, a militia, a racially motivated militia, tried to forcefully take the land from him," Wright said. 

Then there's Wright's dad, Sam, who was arrested while peacefully protesting at a parade, raising his fist in the air during the national anthem. 

 

"[Sam] was going through on his college campus in his garb at the time, black glove, fist in the air during the national anthem," Wright said. "He was put in jail for that. He went from controversial protestor to racial reconcile-ist leading the 'Multicultural Parents Program' where I grew up."

Between the men who came before him or those around Wright today, like his sister Allison, who is a Massachusetts public defender working to challenge the inequities in the criminal justice system, he has plenty of inspirational family members to draw upon. 

One thing Wright has personally tried to accomplish with Washington Football is incorporating diversity at the highest levels of the organization. In hiring Martin Mayhew as the team's general manager, Washington became the first team ever to have a minority president, general manager and head coach. 

"When I was at [consulting firm] McKinsey, they did some groundbreaking research that showed the companies with the most diverse leadership teams were those that outperformed their peers in the long run," Wright said. "In the bottom line, in dollars and cents, companies performed better when they had diverse leadership teams. They make better decisions, they create more collaboration, they attract better talent. If every team did this, we would collectively be making more money all across the league."