If there’s some form of team-wide Eagles player demonstration before or during the national anthem Monday night, head coach Doug Pederson plans to be part of it.
Pederson, who said in the past he frowned on players kneeling or sitting during the anthem as a political protest, said he would be a part of anything the entire team participates in to draw attention to social injustice and inequality in the United States.
Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins said Friday he anticipates some sort of protest or demonstration by the Eagles prior to the team’s nationally televised Monday Night Football game against the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago (see story). Jenkins said he doesn’t expect players to kneel during the anthem.
“Everybody wants to be a part of it and I feel like it's no different on our team,” Jenkins said on 94 WIP. “We got guys, especially myself, who feel very strongly about the topic. Last week, we talked about doing some stuff, but we wanted to make sure we didn't do anything to take away from the folks, the families that suffered from 9-11. We didn't want to mess with that day, so we left last week alone.
“But moving forward, I'm sure there will be guys that will probably join in.”
Pederson was asked if he would participate if a team-wide demonstration occurred.
“If it was team-wide, if they wanted to do something team-wide, I’d definitely be for that,” he said before practice Saturday. “I think it shows unity and there’s no division that way, and I think it sends a great message that from our standpoint, the National Football League and the platform and the individuals, we love this country and what it represents and the flag and the national anthem and everything.
“Listen, we’re not perfect, obviously, and for us to stand united that way, I’d go for that.”
Pederson said Jenkins came to his office during the week and told him the players were planning something for Monday night.
“Malcolm, he’s a class act all the way,” Pederson said. “He does a lot of things in the community here and he speaks out on a lot of things and he’s a great leader on this football team, and I appreciate him coming to me first and just letting me know.
“That’s always been my policy on things, is open door, and when guys come up I appreciate them coming to me. …
“Listen, I respect players’ decisions. Everybody has their right to protest or whatever they want to do. Malcolm and I have talked about this and 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.”
Pederson was asked how you prevent it from becoming a distraction.
“You really can’t,” he said.
But he added that other than the initial reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem, recent shows of support by players for social justice and equality have not been a distraction.
“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,” he said.
“I know early on, when Colin did his thing, it might have been initially, the shock and all of what happened. But 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 didn’t say on his radio interview specifically what the Eagles are planning for Monday night, and Pederson said Jenkins hadn’t shared that with him either.
But he did say that this is something that isn’t going away, and it’s something that every head coach is going to have to deal with in his own way.
“I think it’s going to continue,” Pederson said. “Personally, I do. And again, it’s something that players have the right to do. At the same time, I think once we get past the initial wave here, I think it becomes, OK, everybody is sort of expecting it.
“(It’s OK) as long as they do it the right way and it doesn’t become a distraction for the rest of the team.”
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