NFL athletes support formerly-incarcerated youth at transformative Super Bowl dinner

A young man hugs an NFL player

As crowds gathered and athletes converged in Miami for the Super Bowl this weekend, some unlikely partners joined together for a unique dinner that has the potential to spark a national movement and inspire change within juvenile justice.

Aeneas Williams, member of the NFL Hall of Fame, speaks encouraging words to one of the Cafe Momentum interns.

In partnership with the Players Coalition and the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative, Stand Together hosted a pop-up dinner Friday night featuring Café Momentum, an award-winning, Dallas-based restaurant that provides 12-month paid internships for young people exiting juvenile detention. With 85% of their interns never returning to jail, this approach is helping these interns chart a path to reaching their full potential.

While the dinner attendees included highly recognized and decorated NFL players, top business leaders, policy advocates, and community leaders, the real stars of the evening were the 12 previously incarcerated young people who had only 48 hours to train for, prepare, and serve the dinner.

The interns huddle up to chant “I Matter!” before serving dinner.

“These young men and women are the real stars of Super Bowl week. They have so much to offer and their success is helping to show our country a better way to improve our criminal justice system overall,” said Brian Hooks, CEO of Stand Together.

The dinner is part of a national pop-up dinner series designed to amplify Café Momentum’s model and to spark a national conversation about a bottom-up approach to transform juvenile justice by creating better opportunities for young people exiting the system.

Chad Houser, founder and head chef of Café Momentum, said during the dinner, “We envision a country where the basic and socioemotional needs of our youth are met; a country that understands that when a child undergoes trauma, they need a hug, not incarceration; a country whose communities come together to support this vision. But this isn’t only a vision. It’s a reality for the 800-plus youth who have gone through the Café Momentum program in Dallas over the past five years. And it can be a reality for thousands of youth across our country.”

After the crowds are gone and the hype of the Super Bowl fades, the experience and impact of this dinner will remain in the lives of those interns, staff, and attendees.

We invite everyone to continue to cheer for second chances for system-involved young men and women and join Stand Together and Café Momentum to help every person rise.

Learn More