When Steve Cannon joined Arthur M. Blank's Family of Businesses as Chief Executive Officer five years ago, one of his goals was to turn the Falcons' organization into the NFL's standard for military outreach and appreciation.
"I remember having a conversation with Arthur in his office when I first came to Atlanta," Cannon said. "We talked about having one of the highest concentrations of soldiers and their families residing in our state – probably more than just about any other team in the league. So, I said, if there is a team that needs to get this right and make it a core of who they are, it needs to be the Atlanta Falcons."
Cannon's appreciation for members of our armed forces stems from the fact that he himself served in the Army. Graduating with honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986 and later serving as a 1st Lt. in West Germany during the fall of the Iron Curtain, Cannon has firsthand knowledge of what military service means, and understands why outreach is so important.
Cannon now serves on the national board of directors for TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) which aims to provide support and care to those grieving the loss of a friend or family member who served in the military. The TAPS program holds special meaning to Cannon as he lost his brother Mark with whom he served at West Point.
Cannon's time serving in the military has not only helped him better understand the challenges service members face, but has also had a defining impact on who he is as a leader.
"As a member of the military, I learned the model of servant leadership," Cannon said. "The soldiers don't work for me; I work for the soldiers. It is my job to give them great leadership, direction and training so they can be their best selves. I've now been practicing servant leadership for 30 years in the civilian sector. To me it is the only correct way in the end to be a leader."
As Cannon has challenged the Atlanta Falcons to be world class in honoring and supporting U.S. service members, veterans, and their families, Falcons players and coaches have been empowered to step into the space and use their own voices. This commitment has led to team members being recognized for their efforts.
Members of the Atlanta Falcons organization received the NFL's Salute to Service Award Presented by USAA in 2016, 2017 and 2018: Former Head Coach Dan Quinn (2016), Andre Roberts (2017) and Ben Garland (2018).
Now, it is only fitting Cannon himself has been named the 2020 NFL Salute to Service Award recipient, with the Falcons now receiving the award the last four out of five years.
Cannon and the Falcons pledge to continue to find new ways to show their appreciation to members of the military and their respective families.
"I love the fact that I can almost guarantee our team is going to come up with better ideas for next year in how we can use our platform to shine a spotlight on our soldiers' service around the world," Cannon said. "That makes me feel really good. I love that the team I get to work with on these efforts is hardwired to always raise the bar."
Cannon also added how the Falcons improve their efforts to support military members is a product of better understanding who those military members are as individuals.
"As we meet more soldiers, sailors and marines, we are better able to understand their challenges," Cannon said. "As we better understand them, we are better equipped to use our platform to showcase their service and sacrifice."
Steve Cannon, Chief Executive Officer of AMB Sports & Entertainment, has been named the NFL 2020 Salute to Service Award recipient. Cannon has also been named the 2020 recipient of the USO's Patriot Award.