PHILADELPHIA — Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said that players around the league will continue in their efforts to raise awareness about social injustice regardless of how the NFL decides to address demonstrations during the national anthem.
“I think we’ve seen even over the last year that you can take a player out of the league, you can threaten to do whatever you want to do, that’s not going to deter players from doing what’s right, or doing what they believe is right,” Jenkins said Tuesday. “You might be able to change the manner in which that looks but I don’t see players stopping their pursuit for justice or equality.”
On Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to NFL teams expressing a belief that “everyone should stand for the national anthem” and that the dispute surrounding the issue is “threatening to erode the unifying power of our game.” He spoke of a plan that will be reviewed with the teams at next week’s league meeting, which would “include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.”
President Donald Trump has called on NFL owners since last month to fire players who do not stand for the anthem, saying their protest “disrespects the flag” and the country. On Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he would bench any player who knelt.
“It’s sad that it’s come to this point,” said Eagles safety Rodney McLeod, who has raised a fist alongside Jenkins in recent weeks during the playing of the anthem. “Maybe they can figure out some way to talk to different leaders around the teams, Malcolm, [Seahawks receiver Doug] Baldwin and guys like that, sit down possibly with the president and express the reasons for their concerns and why they’re trying to [have others] take notice of something that they strongly believe in and something that is unfortunately happening in today’s society.
“That’s what it has to come down to, for him to possibly understand and hear from these players rather than hear from outside sources, hear it directly from the players.”
Word of Goodell’s memo was just reaching Eagles players as they walked off the practice field Tuesday afternoon. Jenkins said that the mission remains the same regardless of whether the NFL decides to implement a league-wide mandate that every player must stand during the national anthem.
“The position of the players is that we’re going to continue to do the work that we’ve been doing, we’re going to continue to use our platforms as we have been over the last year to drive awareness to injustices in our country,” he said. “Now what the NFL decides to do is kind of on them. There has been open dialogue between players and different ownership; there has been dialogue between players and Commissioner Goodell.
“But at the end of the day, you’ve also had these individual owners come out and take these strong stances, and some owners take stances behind closed doors. But from a player’s standpoint, that doesn’t change what we do or how we go about our business. Whether they want to assist us or deter us is on them.”
Jenkins was one of four players who penned a lengthy memo to the league office requesting league support and asking for a month to be dedicated to social activism. Goodell has had dialogue with members of the players’ coalition in the weeks since and joined Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie on a “Listen and Learn” tour that gave them an up-close look at different parts of Philadelphia’s criminal justice system.
“I think that would be an unfortunate decision if [a mandate in respect to the anthem is] all that came out of it, if there was no effort to replace the platform that guys have been using to draw attention to issues in our country,” said Jenkins. “If there is no effort to assist players in that, I think it would be very, very unfortunate, and I don’t think that would go over well.
“I don’t think this would stop anybody from trying to push for change, push for justice. Players have always kind of moved around, found new ways.”