The campaign has been in the works for a year, but Hall President and CEO David Baker said now was the right time to unveil it.

CANTON  About 800 American flags line the Pro Football Hall of Fame campus this weekend, serving as a physical reminder of the organization's commitment to uniting the country.

Hall officials on Friday announced they have launched a #HuddleUpAmerica campaign that will run at least three years until the NFL's centennial celebration in Canton in September 2020. The campaign will give Americans an opportunity to have conversations about topics that are important to them and will include programming at the Hall's campus that promotes character development of football players.

The campaign has been in the works for a year, but Hall President and CEO David Baker said now was the right time to unveil it, considering recent controversy regarding the flag and free speech, and the sense some people have that "everybody has a voice but nobody's listening."

"How can we bring people together, get in the huddle and start listening to each other?" he said.

The Hall will partner with the nonprofit RISE — the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality — and will hold community forums across the country hosted by Hall of Famers. RISE works with professional sports organizations to meet its goal of improving race relations through public awareness campaigns and educational programming, according to its website 

The campaign also will tie in programming planned for the to-be-constructed Center for Excellence, including "The Game for Life Academy," which will be for coaches, officials and parents and will address positive character development for football players.

The news comes from the Hall as the NFL is under fire because of players protesting social injustice by kneeling on the sidelines during the national anthem.

A news release from the Hall includes an open letter to football fans from Baker, in which he refers to the nation as "Team America" and calls on fans to build up their fellow citizens and "inspire hope, trust and love."

The letter says #HuddleUpAmerica will encourage people to "work through issues that are important to our families, communities and country. To stand for our flag. To stand for 'free speech.' To 'hear' and help those crying out. To honor those who fought for our flag AND our freedoms."

Baker addressed the NFL controversy during a recent Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club and said he believes the flag is sacred and would not kneel but that he also would have respect for others.

Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or alison.matas@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @amatasREP