NFL, Jay-Z-funded group cut off Black youths’ dreadlocks to give them ‘a better life’

Crushers Club, a Chicago-based nonprofit that will receive $200,000 from the National Football League (NFL), is being criticized on social media for having shared photographs of its founder cutting off the dreadlocks of Black youth.

Twitter user Resist Programming retweeted Crushers Club’s tweet from 2016, in which the founder Sally Hazelgrove, who is white, celebrates cutting off a youth’s locs.

“And another Crusher let me cut his dreads off! It’s symbolic of a change and their desire for a better life!” the Crushers Club’s tweet reads.

In a caption of another photo of Hazelgrove cutting youth’s hair, Crushers Club wrote, “He’s freaking out but looks so cute! #loveshorthair.”

Crushers Club is an organization that teaches youth how to box and attempts to be the “strongest alternative to gangs.” The NFL partnered with Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation to fund the nonprofit. The collaboration is called Inspire Change, and it will fund several organizations that focus on “education and economic advancement” and “police and community relations.”

After Resist Programming shared Crusher Clubs’ tweets, Twitter users began condemning Inspire Change for backing the nonprofit.

“The optics of that woman cutting their hair is awful. It’s simply violent,” Twitter user @EssDot323 wrote.

Resist Programming also shared Facebook comments from three years ago, in which someone called out Hazelgrove for celebrating cutting young black men’s hair.

“There’s a rich cultural heritage associated with locs,” Facebook user Stephen Styles wrote at the time. “If we’re gonna celebrate a young person’s sacrifice for his culturally important hairstyle just so he [can] find more options for survival and success, the least we can do is name the fact that this sacrifice shouldn’t be necessary.”

In response, Hazelgrove wrote back, “I dont see race children are children to me but i will be more thoughtful about my words.”

When the old Crusher Club tweets started gaining traction, Hazelgrove deleted several with problematic comments and released a public statement.

“I did not think about the ramifications,” Hazelgrove told the Washington Post. “I can understand how I could be interpreted as insensitive, but that certainly was not our intention. I was trying to support his decision.”

Resist Programming’s tweet thread prompted filmmaker Ava DuVernay to ask Twitter users to share pictures of themselves with locs to celebrate “the beauty and majesty of life with locs.” It led to the hashtag #loclife.

Social media users have also criticized the nonprofit for other tweets that Resist Programming uncovered. One of Crushers Club’s tweets read, “all lives matter.” Another tweet that enraged Twitter users was for a “Cop and Cupcake” event, in which Crushers Club commented, “What better way to bridge the gap than with sweets?”

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Sierra Juarez

Sierra Juarez

Sierra Juarez is a freelance journalist and fact-checker based in Mexico. She most enjoys writing about human rights and politics and working in audience engagement. Her work has appeared in the Texas Tribune, the Austin American–Statesman, and the San Antonio Current.