Three members of the Philadelphia Eagles protested during the national anthem before Monday night’s kickoff at Soldier Field against the Bears. Safety Malcom Jenkins, defensive end Steven Means and cornerback Ron Brooks raised their right fists during the anthem.
Jenkins has said in recent days that he and some teammates are poised to join other NFL players — beginning with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick before an exhibition game last month — to protest during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
While Jenkins stressed “it’s not an anti-police thing” or meant as statement against the country or the flag, per se, he acknowledged the players know their action in whatever form it takes to spur discussion of social injustice in America is bound to upset some people.
That’s the point, he said.
“That’s what makes you guys put these cameras in my face and that’s what keeps this conversation going,” Jenkins told reporters after the Eagles’ Saturday practice. “So sometimes you’ve got to rock the boat to get a little bit of change, and that’s fine, and obviously you’re seeing more and more guys using that platform to do just that.”
Not only have Kaepernick and members of the 49ers defied the protocol of players stand at attention along the sideline during the national anthem, so have members of a half-dozen other teams through the first two weeks of the NFL regular season. Some have taken a knee, others locked arms, raised fists or simply stood behind teammates.
Going into ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” telecast, Jenkins did not say what he and teammates planned but said it was unlikely to involve kneeling or locking arms. Whatever they do, he emphasized he hoped one thing was clear.
“It’s not an anti-police thing,” Jenkins said. “In fact, the police are a key part of the solution on this issue across the nation.”
The end goal, he said, is to be a catalyst for change.
“I know somebody kneeling or doing something is not what’s going to create change,” Jenkins said. “That’s really just drawing attention to it … to push those things to the forefront.
“It’s also to unite the community. I’ve had conversations with the local police department about things that we can do in our communities to bridge those gaps. So this is a multi-level issue that you have to attack in different levels. … It’s not something that’s going to change overnight, but obviously the conversation is the first part.”
Jenkins said Friday on Philadelphia’s WIP-FM he believes the protest can “continue to push forward the conversation about social injustice,” which he said covers everything from wages and job opportunities to education, as well as police brutality.
“There’s just a lot of things systematically that have been set up in this country since its inception that really … put minorities, especially African Americans, at a disadvantage when you talk about quality of life and actually growing in this country,” Jenkins said. “So we want to continue to keep that conversation going, push it to as many people as we can, obviously while also doing our part in bringing forth change.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Saturday that whatever players choose to do will happen regardless of whether he gives it his blessing and he would respect the players’ decisions. He said he appreciated Jenkins coming to him to make certain he was not caught off-guard.
“Malcolm is a class act all the way,” Pederson said. “He does a lot of things in the community here. He speaks out on a lot of things. He’s a great teammate and a great leader of this football team. I just appreciate him coming to me first and just letting me know. That’s always been my policy on things … open door. When guys have things like this that come up, I appreciate them coming to me.”
Pederson said he just hoped that a protest wouldn’t distraction for the team as a whole, not just this week but to the extent it may continue through the season.
“It’s something that players have the right to do,” Pederson said. “At the same time, I think once we get past the initial wave here, I think then it becomes, OK, everybody is sort of expecting it, and it’s second nature after that … as long as they do it the right way and it doesn’t become a distraction for the rest of the team.”
Eagles players discussed protesting before their season opener. Ultimately, according to Jenkins, they didn’t in deference to it coinciding with the 15th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, because they believed that would upset people for a wrong reason.
“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t do anything to take away from the folks, the families that suffered from 9-11,” Jenkins “We didn’t want to mess with that day, so we left last week alone. But moving forward, I’m sure that there will be guys that will probably join in.”
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