Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins announced Thursday he has decided to stop raising his fist in protest during the national anthem now that the NFL reportedly pledged $89 million over the next seven years to address a number of social issues.
According to ESPN, the yet-to-be-announced plan does not include a directive to end the ongoing protests in which players raise awareness of inequality and police brutality against minorities by sitting, kneeling, or raising a fist during the national anthem. It does, however, address criminal justice reform efforts, law enforcement and community relations as well as education inequality.
“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 his decision to no longer raise his fist during the national anthem, as he has done since Week 2 of the 2016 season, applies to this upcoming Sunday.
“I don’t anticipate demonstrating this week simply because I felt like when I started demonstrating, my whole motivation was to draw awareness to disenfranchised people, communities of color, injustices around the country, our criminal justice system,” Jenkins said. “And obviously through this year and talking with the league and what they’ve kind of proposed, I feel like has presented a bigger and better platform to continue to raise that awareness and continue to [influence] positive change.
“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.”
Jenkins said he was 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 during the anthem.
Anquan Bolden, who also was a leader with the Players Coalition, said he thinks what the NFL is doing should put an end to the protests.
“I think one of the reasons that guys were protesting was to have a platform where they could feel that their voice was being heard,” Boldin told the New York Daily News. “If the NFL is giving you that platform — and to be quite honest, they’re even amplifying that voice — why would you protest during NFL games?”
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett called it “a great gesture” on the NFL’s part to offer $89 million to social justice causes.
“I think most organizations aren’t trying to find ways to give back,” Bennett said.”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.”
Some player are not onboard with the plan, including San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas and Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung, who all broke away from the Players Coalition before the deal was announced because of disagreements over how Jenkins and Boldin have handled negotiations.
Reid says he left The Players Coalition because Jenkins excluded Colin Kaepernick from meetings, and asked players if they would stop protesting the anthem if the NFL made a charitable donation to causes they support.
“Malcolm did text me this morning asking if we would be comfortable ending our demonstrations if the NFL made a donation,” Reid said Wednesday. “At that point, that was the last straw for me. He had a conversation with the NFL. We agreed that multiple people would be part of the conversations with the league so it just wouldn’t be him. He didn’t stand by his word on that. At no point did we ever communicate an agreement with the NFL to end the protest.”
Reid and Thomas both sent tweets Wednesday morning saying they were leaving the coalition because they didn’t believe Jenkins and Boldin shared their interests.
“I haven’t been satisfied with the structure of the coalition or the communication Malcolm has been having with the NFL on his own, speaking on behalf of protesting players when he doesn’t protest,” Reid said, referring to Jenkins raising his fist instead of kneeling during the anthem. “We communicated these concerns to him numerous times and have had numerous phone calls about it. Our concerns haven’t been reflected with how the organization is being run, so I felt like I needed to make a departure from it.”
The agreement does not include language calling for players to end protests during the national anthem in exchange for funds.
“I think that’s going to come down to each and every person,” Jenkins said on whether the 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.”