Malcolm Jenkins of Philadelphia Eagles won’t protest after NFL’s $89M pledge
This news comes after the NFL and the Players Coalition, which Jenkins co-founded, joined in a partnership that calls for the league to contribute $89 million over seven years to projects dealing with criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education.
“I know a lot of people have kind of made a big deal about the money that the league has proposed, but I’m more concerned and more interested in the platform they’re proposing,” he said. “The reason I started raising my fist in the first place is to draw awareness to injustices in this country, disenfranchised people of color. I wanted to draw awareness.
“And so I think what the league is proposing is a platform and a campaign similar to what they’ve done with breast cancer awareness; My Cause, My Cleats; Salute to Service — but hopefully in an even bigger manner.
“And if we’re able to amplify our voices to showcase those causes, those issues, to highlight grass-roots organizations who are doing the work and need support, to tell the stories of those people who have been wronged or left out, I think that’s even more valuable than the cash amount. So hopefully, in good faith, that gets built out.”
Jenkins said that his decision to no longer raise his fist during the national anthem, as he has since Week 2 of the 2016 season, applies to this upcoming Sunday.
“All of this really is in good faith, and I think if the league continues to come through or deliver on their word, then I see no need to go back to what I was doing.”
Fellow safety Rodney McLeod has joined Jenkins in raising a fist in recent weeks, while defensive end Chris Long has been putting his arm around Jenkins as a sign of support during the anthem since the events in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia this summer. Jenkins said he is unaware whether his teammates or other members of the Players Coalition, a group of 40-plus men from across the league, will cease their demonstrations as well.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett called it “a great gesture” on the NFL’s part to offer $89 million to social justice causes, saying: “I think most organizations aren’t trying to find ways to give back but I guess this is something that the players really want and the players really want to be a part of and I think the ownership wants to too, so we’re just finding a way to do it.”
Several players, including San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas and Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung, broke away from the Players Coalition before the deal being announced over disagreements with how Jenkins and Boldin have handled negotiations. Bennett said he supports both Jenkins and Reid.
According to ESPN’s Jim Trotter and Jason Reid, commissioner Roger Goodell was furious over that development. But during an afternoon call, Jenkins asked that Goodell and the owners continue to stand with the players and allow them to do important work in the community.
“It’s been a trying process for the last year-and-a-half,” said Jenkins, “and I’m sure even moving forward there’s going to be some growing pains and things we need to move through. But at the end of the day, I’m focused on solutions and outcomes. I really want to make an impact in my community, I want to make sure we do it in the right manner and that we accomplish what we set out to do when we first started to protest as players.”
The agreement does not include language calling for players to end protests during the national anthem in exchange for funds; there’s no implicit quid pro quo, Trotter and Reid report. But the NFL hopes this effort will effectively end the peaceful yet controversial movement that former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started in 2016, when he refused to stand for the anthem.
“I think that’s going to come down to each and every person,” said Jenkins on whether or not protests continue. “I know for me, I’m less concerned about the money and more concerned about the awareness, because I feel like the opportunity to use the NFL’s stage will draw more money than we’d ever be able to do on our own.”
ESPN’s Brady Henderson contributed to this report.