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President Donald Trump asks NFL players for pardon recommendations

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President Donald Trump asks NFL players for pardon recommendations

President Donald Trump has long been at odds with NFL players over protests during the national anthem, but on Friday expressed the desire to listen. 

One of the main reasons some NFL players have been protesting is the topic of criminal justice reform, a topic that’s also very important to Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. Earlier this week, when Jenkins used posters to illustrate his point that people hadn’t been listening, several of his statistics were based on the idea of criminal justice reform (see story).

Trump acknowledged this one reason for protests Friday morning. 

“I am going to ask all of those people to recommend to me — because that’s what they’re protesting — people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system,” Trump said. “And I understand that. And I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated — friends of theirs or people that they know about — and I’m going to take a look at those applications. And if I find, and my committee finds that they are unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out (of prison).”

Before saying he’d listen to suggestions for folks to be pardoned, Trump again said those players weren’t “proud enough” to stand for the anthem. This comes just a few days after the Eagles’ White House visit, when Trump, in part, cited differing viewpoints on protests during the national anthem. 

And he again Friday mentioned players shouldn’t be in the locker room during the anthem, a solution offered by the NFL’s new national anthem policy. This time, the president tried to offer a solution of his own. 

We’ll see if he follows through. 

Former Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes already has a name in mind. His brother, who is serving a 324-month sentence for a weed-relation offense. 

On Friday, Trump also said he was looking into possibly pardoning late boxer Muhammad Ali, whose attorney pointed out that a pardon wasn’t needed. 

Still, the sentiment was seemingly there and the president at least acknowledged a reason some NFL players have been protesting. 

When asked if he’d invite players to the White House for a roundtable chat, the president said he doesn’t have to do that. 

“You know, I don’t have to do that,” Trump said. “I’m not looking to grandstand.  We’ve got enough grandstanders in this town.

“I’m just saying, for the leagues, if they have people — if the players, if the athletes have friends of theirs or people that they know about that have been unfairly treated by the system, let me know.”

Now, pardoning a few people is a drop in the bucket when we’re talking about criminal justice reform. The president also didn’t address systemic and racial oppression, another huge part of the players’ protests. 

And folks who are in jail either wrongly or are serving too harsh of penalties don’t begin to complete the list of things players feel is wrong with the system. But it’s at least a nice gesture. It would be an even nicer gesture if the president follows through.

Eagles' coaches to continue working at home despite NFL policy change

Eagles' coaches to continue working at home despite NFL policy change

In a bit of a surprising move, the Eagles have decided to keep their coaching staff sequestered at home, despite an NFL policy that would allow them to return to work at the NovaCare Complex on Friday.

The NFL is allowing coaches — but not players — to work at team facilities starting Friday, as long as local and state guidelines allow it.

But Doug Pederson is apparently so happy with the way virtual sessions between the coaches and players have gone over the past several weeks that he doesn't see a reason to bring his coaches into the building yet.

"The virtual collaboration over the past three months has proven that the contributions and value of our employees is not dependent upon their physical presence at the facility," the team said in a statement.

Many Eagles assistants don't live in Philadelphia year-round and the new coaches on Pederson's staff haven't had the chance to look for homes yet.

Because players aren't allowed into the complex — other than injured or rehabbing players — it wouldn't really change the way the Eagles are holding virtual OTA sessions.

The current set of offseason workouts is scheduled to end on June 25, and training camp is scheduled to begin about a month later.

The Eagles will be opening the NovaCare Complex and the Linc to a limited number of employees next week.  

"Over the last 12 weeks, our organization has remained connected, united and focused on our preparations for the upcoming season," the Eagles said in an unattributed statement. 

"We have been planning for and will begin a phased approach of gradually returning a limited number of employees to the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field beginning Monday in compliance with the state and local guidelines, NFL policies and in consultation with medical experts."

The Eagles closed the NovaCare Complex on March 13 and players and coaches have been meeting virtually since. 

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Drew Brees fumble highlights how much Carson Wentz nailed it

Drew Brees fumble highlights how much Carson Wentz nailed it

As we watch Drew Brees backpedal, apologize and now try to smooth things over with his teammates and his city, one thing is becoming clear. 

Carson Wentz nailed it. The first time. 

Wentz last Friday became one of the first high-profile white athletes in America to speak out about the killing of George Floyd. He stopped short of specifically calling out police brutality but he condemned “institutional racism” and his approach was one of understanding and empathy. It was honest, it was refreshing and it was unifying. 

Then there’s what Brees said. 

Brees in an interview on Wednesday reiterated his response from 2016 about the peaceful protests against police brutality and racial injustice once held by NFL players during the national anthem. Brees said he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.” 

For Brees’s black teammates who have been fighting for racial equality, and for those affected by racial injustice, those words hurt. Not just because Brees completely missed the point of those protests but because of his complete lack of awareness. It hurt more because it came from someone they thought was an ally. 

Malcolm Jenkins on Thursday said he had spoken to Brees but he still posted his emotional responses to those comments. A strained Jenkins choked back tears as he talked about how much the words from Brees pained him. 

One of the big problems for Jenkins was the loss of trust. In an emotionally charged week, during which Jenkins has been trying to effect real change, someone he considered to be an ally, a friend, a brother, completely discounted the cause. 

To Brees’s credit, he did apologize on Thursday morning. While many will argue that his apology fell short in many areas, it’s at least a start to his rebuilding trust in the locker room and in New Orleans, where crowds of protesters on Wednesday chanted “F— Drew Brees!” Some will accept his apology, some will want to see more and some never will. 

For his sake and for the sake of his teammates, I hope the apology wasn’t hollow. I hope Brees learns why his words hurt so many. 

It’s hard to imagine Brees watching those videos of Jenkins and not wanting to rectify the situation. Imagine causing so much pain to someone you’re supposed to care about. 

While plenty of Saints players have spoken out against their quarterback’s words this week, many Eagles players have gained even more respect for their quarterback. DeSean Jackson earlier this week said his white teammates like Wentz, Zach Ertz and Jason Kelce stepped up. In that moment, Wentz wasn’t just a leader of a football team; he was a leader of the community. 

This isn’t about football right now. But eventually, there will be NFL games and it’s fair to wonder how these parallel situations will play out short-term and long-term in their respective cities. One team seems to be weaker because of this and one team seems to be stronger. 

While Brees caused what might be irreparable damage to the brotherhood of his football team and to his legacy in New Orleans, Wentz took a huge step forward as a leader of his locker room and the community. 

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