In a move of solidarity on Sunday afternoon, the Eagles and the Washington Football team combined for a showing of unity before the game.
After warmups, the two teams walked toward each other as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” played. The two teams locked arms across from each other to form a long oval. On the FOX broadcast, Alicia Keys sang.
The Eagles then went into the locker room and Washington kneeled on its sideline as a team and then went inside.
During the national anthem, the Eagles remained in the tunnel.
This continues a wave of demonstrations by professional athletes in recent months to highlight injustices and incidents of police brutality.
Earlier in the week, Rodney McLeod said the Eagles were still working through a plan of anything they might do before the game or during the National Anthem. The Eagles social justice committee was going to meet to come up with a plan to then present to the entire team.
This is obviously the Eagles first game after a turbulent offseason filled with topics of racial and social injustice.
This offseason, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he would support his players’ demonstrations but wouldn’t say if he would join them.
“Nothing has been determined,” Pederson said in June. “I support players who demonstrate peacefully and stand for something. … We have to fix the whys. It's part of the whys and trying to understand our players, and we support our players. I support our players. But we are going to have these conversations I know once we get into camp.”
In Thursday’s NFL opener, the Texans elected to wait out the anthem from inside the tunnel and then linked arms with the Chiefs in a showing of unity. That was met with a smattering of boos from the crowd in Kansas City.
For the Eagles, their commitment to issues of inequality don’t end with demonstrations before and during games. They have a social justice committee and recently announced an action plan, listing four ways they pledge to make a difference:
- Supporting educational reform
- Making sure every team member is registered to vote and does vote
- Supporting positive transformation and more transparency in policing
- Supporting black businesses to help strengthen black economies and shrink the racial wealth gap
A couple weeks ago, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie held a lengthy virtual press conference about many topics. During that press conference, he said he stood by his players and talked about his role as an owner of an NFL franchise.
“To me, action is the most important,” Lurie said. “The conversations need to take place. They've always taken place with our team, going back a few years. We've always had a very close-knit atmosphere between our players and ownership and executives, and I think it's served us well and it continues to, because I trust our players. I trust the direction and their feelings of hurt and where they think we should go. I'm more of a listener and I'm somebody that wants to fully support with the resources of our organization and our league whatever actions that are deemed the most sustainable.
“So, if I can be a guide in terms of where I think things can be sustainable, then I'm there for them. But as I said to them, I think, yesterday or the day before in our meeting with the social justice committee was, ‘I'm here for you guys. You guys take the lead and you will have, as you always have had, our support.’ That's just the way we've naturally operated.
“I’m really pleased with how they are looking at these difficult, difficult issues and want to come up with something that's sustainable. Not be the first to come up with an action plan, but to come up with things that are really sustainable in the community, in the city, in the country. That's my role.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing and then again after the shooting of Jacob Blake, the Eagles have spent plenty of time this offseason speaking as a group about racial and social injustice. During team meetings, several players, including Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod, shared their own experiences with their teammates.
Several years ago, a few Eagles began demonstrating during the national anthem after Colin Kaepernick’s original demonstration. Malcolm Jenkins was the Eagles’ leader on these topics, but now that he’s no longer on the team, it seems like other players, including McLeod, have taken a bigger leadership role. This offseason, we also saw star white players like Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz get involved.