Malcolm Jenkins and Colin Kaepernick tried to tell us and we all didn't listen

Malcolm Jenkins and Colin Kaepernick tried to tell us and we all didn't listen

This week, as the country yet again confronts police brutality, racism and raw emotion in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, I thought back to a conversation I had with Malcolm Jenkins in the summer of 2018. 

I was writing a story about Jenkins and his role as a leader in a movement against police brutality, one that aimed for racial equality and criminal justice reform. As hesitant as he once was to become one of the faces of that movement, it was a responsibility he accepted. And, frankly, that stoic resolve impressed the hell out of me. 

Jenkins felt like it was his duty. 

Jenkins explained that back in 2016, just weeks after he and some teammates met with the Philadelphia police commissioner about the struggles between the black community and police, Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem. That’s when it clicked. 

I think for me, it showed that there are other guys out there who are feeling the same frustrations as me amongst my peers,” Jenkins said in 2018. “And, two, what Colin taught all of us is how much social capital we have as athletes. We might not be the richest out there or the experts or the politicians. 

“We have social capital and can literally change the dialogue in the conversation worldwide. At that moment, I thought if we can create these different moments in silos as individuals, how impactful could it be if we collectively did something? I think for me, that’s when that vision was planted.

"Social capital” is a fancy way of saying athletes have a platform. The idea of athletes using their platform to promote social change isn’t a new one, but this was like a new wave. 

Jenkins, Kaepernick and others used their platform to engage in the most non-violent forms of protest imaginable. A knee on the ground, a fist in the air. 

And they still met resistance. 

They were right back then and they’re still right today. Everyone should have listened. 

They tried to highlight injustice and were told to shut up and play a game, Kaepernick was blackballed. And the list of dead black men continued to grow.

But Sundays are for football. Sundays are for beer drinking and wing eating and how dare these black men do anything other than entertain me, right? How dare they make me face harsh truths about my country when I’d rather escape for a couple hours and watch my TV. 

We all need escapes; I get it. But think about the privilege it takes to ask a black man to stop protesting the unlawful deaths of other black men at the hands of police so that you can enjoy a game. That’s what happened. For the most part, the NFL stood idly by hoping that it — the kneeling, not the killing — stopped so their wallets wouldn’t suffer. 

The arguments against the demonstrations were that they disrespected the flag, disrespected military. They didn’t, of course, but that was the argument. 

As a result, the protests during the national anthem became so bastardized that Jenkins was already thinking about giving them up in 2017. (He finally did after the NFL and the Players Coalition joined a partnership that included $90 million for projects dealing with criminal justice reform and law enforcement relations.) It seemed like the focus had become more about the actual demonstration than about the reasons for them in the first place. 

The reasons, of course, are still out there. A week ago in Minneapolis, a police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing. Chauvin has been arrested and charged with murder but the three officers who stood there, complicit, are still free men. 

This is why Kaepernick took a knee. This is why Jenkins raised a fist. 

Next time, we all need to listen. 

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Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Just two days after we learned the NFL’s plan to cut the 2020 preseason in half, the NFL Players Association is reportedly recommending that the league cancel the entire preseason. 

The NFLPA’s board of representatives voted unanimously on the recommendation, according to ESPN. 

On Wednesday, ProFootballTalk reported that the NFL was cutting the preseason in half because of the coronavirus pandemic, keeping Weeks 2 and 3 but eliminating Weeks 1 and 4. Other reports indicated that those preseason games would be pushed back later into August. 

If the Eagles end up playing the original Weeks 2 and 3 of their preseason schedule, they will face the Dolphins on the road and the Patriots at home. They were originally scheduled to be at Indianapolis in Week 1 and at home against the Jets in Week 4, but those games have already been canceled. 

The NFL is still planning for training camps to begin on July 28 with rookies and select vets allowed to report earlier. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said earlier this offseason that his team will need the entire five-to-six-week training camp to get ready for the 2020 season, especially after missing the entire spring workout schedule because of the pandemic. 

The Eagles are scheduled to begin their 2020 regular season in Washington on Sept. 13. 

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Redskins considering changing name amid rising pressure

Redskins considering changing name amid rising pressure

He said he would never do it.

"We'll never change the name of the team," Dan Snyder told USA Today in 2013. "It's that simple. Never. You can use caps."

Now, amid an increased national focus on racism and social justice and mounting pressure from million-dollar sponsors, his tune has suddenly changed.

The Redskins' owner said in a statement Friday that the franchise will review the team's name, seen by many as racist and offensive to Native Americans and others.

Protests against the Redskins' name and logo have been ongoing for decades, but when companies like FedEx and Nike join those protests, things can change very quickly.

Considering the growing pressure now on the franchise, it would be surprising at this point if the franchise elects not to change its name.

"In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team's name," the statement read. "This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has consistently supported Snyder's decision to keep the team name, released a statement saying only, "In the last few weeks we have had ongoing discussions with Dan and we are supportive of this important step."

FedEx, which paid $205 million for the naming rights for the Redskins' stadium in 1998, asked the Redskins earlier Friday to change the team name. And Nike, the NFL's official uniform supplier, on Thursday removed all Redskins gear from its website while continuing to allow customers to order merchandise from all 31 other teams.

In the statement released by the team, Snyder said: "This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field."

First-year Redskins head coach Ron Rivera, a former Eagles assistant coach and one of three Latin American head coaches in NFL history, indicated in the statement that he favors a name change.

"This issue is of personal importance to me and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our Military."

The team's current name dates back 87 years.

The NFL Boston Braves franchise was founded in 1932 and one year later moved to Fenway Park, which it shared with the baseball franchise of the same name. To avoid confusion, owner George Preston Marshall changed the name to Redskins. The franchise moved to Washington in 1937 and kept the name.

Marshall, who owned the franchise until his death in 1969, refused to allow black players on the roster until 1962, which made the team the last in the NFL to integrate. 

Not until U.S. attorney general Robert F. Kennedy threatened to rescind the team's lease at city-owned RFK Stadium did Marshall finally allow the team's roster to be integrated.

Last month, team officials removed Marshall's name from the Redskins Ring of Honor at FedEx Field, and a statue of Marshall was removed from RFK Stadium by city officials after it was vandalized.

Protests against sports teams and logos perpetuating stereotypes of Native Americans and their culture have grown more widespread in recent years but have been held for decades.

In 1991 — nearly 30 years ago — there were organized protests against the Atlanta Braves and Redskins over their team names and logos, according to an Associated Press story. The story quoted Clyde Bellecourt, director of a group called the American Indian Movement, which organized protests outside Braves and Redskins games.

"It's a racist term," Bellecourt told the AP in October of 1991. "We're not thin-skinned, this just makes a mockery of uses a people and of our culture."

And now, it looks like the franchise is finally going to do something about it.

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