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September 17, 2016

Eagles' Jenkins explains decision to make symbolic gesture during anthem

Eagles NFL
091716_Malcolm-Jenkins_AP Chris Szagola/AP

Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Malcolm Jenkins knew what was coming. The usual media swarm gives hints, like bees swirling around honey, though on this lazy Saturday, they swirled around his locker after the Eagles practiced.

On Friday, Jenkins said publicly to WIP’s Glen Macnow and Jody MacDonald that he and some of his Eagles teammates were planning on making a symbolic gesture during the playing of the national anthem before the Eagles game against the Chicago Bears on “Monday Night Football.”

And according to Jenkins, a lot went into the decision. 

The veteran safety, who’s noted for his foundation and his outreach community work, wanted to make sure fans knew it wasn’t an easy decision to make, and he spoke to many people about it—including a very close friend who is deployed right now in the military.

He wanted to convey his sentiments weren’t contained in sweeping headlines -- that there was much self-reflection that went into talking to Eagles head coach Doug Pederson about this move before announcing it publicly.

“I’m not anti-police, or anti-military, not at all, and I want to make sure people get that point,” Jenkins told PhillyVoice on Saturday. “Like I said, I’ve had multiple conversations with Philadelphia police. I have a lot of friends who have served in the military, my grandfather served in the military. By no means would I do anything to disrespect them. 

“I think that’s where the message is lost. I have great respect for the police and military, and I respect what they do. It’s why we didn’t think about this move [prior to the Eagles opener against the Cleveland Browns on 9/11]. I respect the first responders. I had to spitball call my buddy who is the air force and is actually deployed. We spoke on the phone about this and I asked what his feeling were before I made a decision on anything, because I respect our armed forces and what they do. At the same time — and I want to make it a point — this has nothing to do with them.”

Jenkins said the gesture would focus on systematic injustice and the move by he and his teammates is to open a dialogue that needs to be addressed.

“Especially the justice system that’s in place that directly affects the under-served community, which most times affect African-Americans,” Jenkins said. “I already do a lot in the community and I feel this falls in line with what I’ve been doing since I got into the league. You know, people see and read headlines and assume something without actually reading the message that’s under the headline. The police are part of the solution. It has nothing to do with the military or the flag itself. But that’s what keeps the conversation going.” 

Jenkins spoke to Pederson about the move and it’s an issue that was raised during his final meeting with the press before the Bears game.

“Listen, I respect players' decisions. Everybody has their right to either protest or whatever they are going to do,” Pederson said. “Malcolm and I have talked about this. It's going to happen regardless of what I decide or say, and I respect the players' decisions on it. 

“The biggest thing is, I just don't want it to become a distraction to the rest of the team. That's the biggest thing from my standpoint. You really can't [prevent that]. With their demonstrations and the things that have gone on league-wide … And I really don't think it's been a distraction for teams. I know early on, when [49ers QB] Colin [Kaepernick] did his thing, it might have been initially because of the shock and awe of what happened. I think now that everybody has sort of embraced it and knows that it's going to happen, I think everybody is braced for it so it won't be a distraction.”

Jenkins said it's uncertain what the Eagles would do. One thing he said is that the Eagles will not kneel, nor will they lock arms like the Seattle Seahawks did before their opener on 9/11. He also admitted that the Eagles, as a whole, have had mixed emotions about a demonstration during the national anthem. 

This week, Jenkins said, he would speak to other players about it. He also admitted he didn’t want the issue to divide the team—nor to divide people in general. 

“But the goal is also not to beat around the bush,” Jenkins said. “If it comes down to making somebody uncomfortable by speaking the truth, then I’ll always make you uncomfortable with the truth, [rather] than make you feel comfortable with a lie. It’s a fine line to walk when you’re talking about a team atmosphere and you’re cognizant of the guys next to you. 

"At the same time, it’s bigger than football. I don’t plan on kneeling, but it’s my own way of expressing myself with the same exact message. I support what Kap is doing. The immediate reaction when they saw [Kaepernick] take a knee, everyone was left to question his motive and message. The days and now weeks after that, people continuously heard his message and reasoning, they found it makes sense. 

"When you’re trying to change anything, there’s no comfortable way to change anything, and so if somebody gets upset, it’s probably because they’re not listening.”