Malcolm Jenkins doesn’t know how many teammates will join him. He doesn’t know exactly what form his protest will take. He does know that he has to take action Monday night to show solidarity with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and make a statement about racism, poverty and social injustice.
Jenkins, the Eagles’ Pro Bowl safety, said in a radio interview on 94 WIP on Friday that he and an undetermined number of teammates plan some sort of action before the Eagles-Bears game Monday night at Soldier Field.
On Saturday after practice, he expounded on his plans, his beliefs, his motivation and his goals in a 15-minute interview at his locker at the NovaCare Complex.
Here is the bulk of the interview, with only repetitive questions or answers eliminated:
Q: You said you hope there is some sort of organized protest Monday night in Chicago. What do you have planned?
Malcolm Jenkins: “Still to be determined. Still want to have a couple conversations with my teammates, and it’ll be a decision I weigh over the next couple days.”
Q: Not all the players in the locker room seem to know what’s happening. Have you spoken to the team as a group?
“We talked last week about doing some things and there was some mixed emotions on the conversation. A lot of people with different feelings about it. So this week I’ve really been to myself about it. Over the next few days I’ll probably talk to a few guys who I know care about the topic and are passionate about it and weigh those options.”
Q: Is it important that whatever action you and your teammates take doesn’t create any divisiveness in the locker room?
“It’s important, but you obviously walk a fine line. Your goal is not to divide people but the goal is also not to beat around the bush. If it comes down to making somebody feel uncomfortable by speaking the truth, then I’d always make you uncomfortable with the truth than make you feel comfortable with a lie. It’s always a fine line to walk when you’re talking about a team atmosphere and making sure that your cognizant of the guys next to you, but at the same time, you know, this is bigger than football.”
Q: You said you won’t be taking a knee during the anthem. Is your message any different than Colin Kaepernick’s message?
“No, nothing’s different. It’s the same message. I don’t plan on kneeling, but whatever I do that’s my own way of expressing that same exact message. I support everything Kap’s doing and his whole entire message and you’ve seen the impact that it’s had not only through this league but throughout the country and the conversations that its sparked. So I stand right next to the same message that Kaepernick’s been pushing.”
Q: Do you think people have been more understanding and accepting of protests since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the anthem in the preseason?
“The immediate reaction when you saw him take a knee and nobody necessarily knew what it was for. There weren’t any statements put out beforehand and so everybody was left to question his motives, his message, but I think the days after that and obviously now weeks when you’ve continuously heard his message and his reasoning, it all makes sense. And I think that’s why guys have gotten behind him around the league. Regardless of how you feel about his demonstration, his message is one you can’t argue with.”
Q: Not everybody on the team is going to be with you. Are you concerned about making some teammates feel uncomfortable?
“You can’t get around it. Whenever you’re trying to change anything, there’s no comfortable way to change it. If somebody gets upset, it’s probably because they’re not listening. That’s why I think if you look at the guys around the league and all the guys who’ve been protesting or demonstrating, if you listen, the message has been the same across the board, no matter what they decide to do, and I thought it was very clear when I said it’s not an anti-police thing. In fact, the police are a key part of the solution on this issue across the nation. It has nothing to do with the military or the flag itself. And we understand that people will get upset. That’s part of it. That’s what makes you guys put these cameras in my face and that’s what keeps this conversation going. So sometimes you’ve got to rock the boat to get a little bit of change, and that’s fine, and obviously you’re seeing more and more guys using that platform to do just that.”
Q: Ultimately, what’s your goal?
“The end goal is to get some real change and I know somebody kneeling or doing something is not what’s going to create change, but when you look at the issue, a lot of it is systematic, and when you want to change the system, that comes with lawmakers, elected officials, things of that sort. That’s really just drawing attention to it … to push those things to the forefront. Especially when you talk about elections and selecting Presidents and who’s going to do what. We still have to talk about the changes you want and force the people in those positions to listen. And then it’s also to unite the community. I’ve had conversations with the local police department about things that we can do in our communities to bridge those gaps. So this is a multi-level issue that you have to attack in different levels. So there are things you do on the ground in the community whether it’s with law enforcement or just resources to people in under-served communities, and then there’s more stuff that has to do with policy and law and that obviously takes a little bit longer to change. It’s not something that’s going to change overnight, but obviously the conversation is the first part.”
Q: What form will the protest take?
“I’ve thought about it but haven’t come to a solid decision of what it’s going to look like yet. We’ve talked about it as a team before and kneeling just wasn’t an option. That’s something we’ll all think about over the next couple days, talk with a few guys and see where we’re at.”
Q: Is the entire team linking arms like the Seahawks did an option?
Q: What was your conversation with head coach Doug Pederson like?
“It was brief and it was simple. I told him what guys have been talking about across the league and he just appreciated the heads up and being up front. He understands that we have a right to kind of use our voices in whatever way we choose. He obviously was appreciative of me bringing it to him first, so at least he’s in the loop and he’s not surprised by questions and all that comes with taking a stance.”
Q: Do you anticipate this being a season-long endeavor?
“I can’t speak for anyone else but probably a season-long thing for me.”
Q: How big is it that Pederson supports whatever the team does?
“It’s big. For guys, especially with a little less security on the team than myself, that’s a big issue. When you step out and there’s backlash, where does your job security lie? What are the thoughts of the people who make decisions on your team? So to have Doug obviously understand our position and to back our rights to take this position is huge, not only for me but for anybody else on the team who might not have the same security as myself.”
Q: Have you always felt it’s important to be vocal about issues you believe in?
“I’ve been pretty vocal on this subject for a while. So obviously with all of this and the momentum the conversation has gotten, it’s only fitting for me to continue to say what I’ve been doing, continue to work out in the community and continue to bring light to the situations that are out there. This is something that not only myself but guys around the league have been talking about for a while.”
Q: “What did you think of the statements other players in the league have made since Kaepernick?
“I thought it was great. The biggest part is because when we heard the message afterwards and it’s all the same. So regardless of how you choose to demonstrate or stand or whether it’s a fist or locking arms or kneeling, I think everybody is starting to understand that this is an agenda that needs to continue to be pushed. People are feeling the needle moving, feeling that momentum going, and I think the more guys that use their platform … then you start to really get the nation to listen. It’s easy to write off one or two guys that people can say are going rogue, but when you have role models and people with our type of platform all sending one unifying message, it’s very very hard to ignore that message.”
Q: Do you feel like this is something players around the league on every team are considering?
“It’s no longer a team conversation, this is a league-wide conversation. Guys reaching out to each other, spitballing ideas, but i think one thing that’s consistent around the league is that there are a lot of guys who feel strongly about this topic and are looking for ways to express themselves and draw light to it in any way that they see fit. … Guys are communicating. This is not just a random thing. This takes a lot of planning, a lot of conversations, a lot of weighing pros and cons, and you’re starting to see the fruits of all this.”
Q: How brave was Kaepernick for taking the stand that he did and starting the ball rolling for the other protests?
“I’ve talked to Kaepernick and I’ve told him that I’m definitely proud of what he’s done. That was a bold and risky move for him to really put everything on the line and all the backlash that’s come with it. But at the same time you can see the conversation growing. It quickly went from talking about Kaepernick to actually the meat and potatoes of what he’s been saying. And so with that in mind, it was worth it. And I think he would say it’s worth it, and I think he’s getting more and more support not only from guys around the league but people around the country. So I commend him. My hat’s off to him. That definitely was a brave move and something that needed to be done.”
Q: Why did you decide not to take any action before the opener at the Linc last week before the Browns?
“We were planning on doing something last week but decided as a team that we didn’t want to disrupt or take away from anything with (the memorial to) 9-11, especially with the first responders on the field. We didn’t want to do that. We talked as a team last week and that was the general consensus. Then myself and a couple other players weighed our options and decided we wouldn’t.”
Q: How many of your teammates do you epect to participate in whatever action you do take?
“That I’m not sure of. There was a lot of mixed feelings. I’ve let it alone this week because I didn’t want to make it a distractions, but it definitely won’t be the whole team but it probably won’t just be me.”
Q: How can you be sure what you’re doing won’t be a distraction to the team?
“It really depends on who you are or how you look at it. Some people like to say anything that’s not about football is a distraction from the game. But at the same time, this is the real world. And so you can’t ignore things that are effecting the community and what’s outside these walls. You can talk about real issues and real topics and still focus on the game."