Less than a week after the NFL’s implemented a new policy with the hopes of eliminating on-field demonstrations during the national anthem, the Eagles were back at work.
And there was still plenty of buzz about the policy.
Not long after the NFL announced the new policy, Malcolm Jenkins released a statement condemning the new policy, saying the NFL aimed to “thwart the players’ constitutional rights to express themselves.”
A few days later, Jenkins hadn’t changed his opinion.
“No, I think it’s still a bad idea and something that was unnecessary,” Jenkins said Tuesday afternoon. “But now there’s a media storm the league has kind of brought on itself.”
That media storm was in full force in the Eagles’ locker room after Tuesday’s practice. Crowds of reporters surrounded Jenkins and Chris Long, two of the NFL’s more vocal and socially aware players.
“It’s their right, but I think it was a dumb move and I think it was clumsy,” Long said. “I don’t think it was rooted in patriotism. I love this country, I love our vets, the guys protesting love our country and love our vets. I think it was driven by fear of a diminished bottom line, which I already wrote on Twitter, you can see that on Twitter. The underlying factor is they’re afraid of the president. I don’t really need to expound much on that. It’s their right, again, but it’s a clumsy rule.”
Jenkins heads the players coalition, which last year worked together with the league to get a pledge of around $90 million for projects dealing with racial inequality in the country. Jenkins was so encouraged by the perceived progress that he actually ended his on-field demonstration late in the season.
“It’s definitely discouraging because I definitely thought we were moving to a place where players obviously wanted a platform and we could create something that was maybe more effective and bigger,” Jenkins said. “I think there’s been a ton of effort and time put into creating that, but then there’s a decision that kind of undermines that. I thought the league genuinely was building that. But then when you start trying to mandate things, it’s less likely to help. …
“It’s definitely frustrating to see them make that decision but players have committed themselves to this work both on Sundays and every other day of the year, have been doing a ton of things. You just hope that, that was the focus of their decision-making and the focus of the coverage that has since followed.”
Jenkins and Long said they haven’t thought about whether or not they’ll protest during the anthem next season. They both said there will be plenty of discussions within locker rooms over the next few months.
Jenkins hasn’t yet spoken with Eagles owner Jeff Lurie since the policy was passed. Later in the evening the day the policy was announced, Lurie released a seemingly tepid statement that didn’t even mention protests during the anthem specifically (see story).
Meanwhile, Jets chairman Christopher Johnson released a statement saying he wouldn’t fine his players for protesting.
That stark contrast likely wasn’t lost on Eagles players, specifically Jenkins.
“I’m not sure how the voting and everything went,” Jenkins said. “You’ve seen other ownership come out with pretty strong statements with where they stand on the topic. And I think players appreciate those.”
The Eagles haven’t offered any recent update about their White House trip, but it’s still presumably scheduled for June 5. Jenkins said President Donald Trump's comments about protesting players, “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country,” haven’t changed his view on going to the White House. He wasn’t going anyway “because of comments like that.”
Both Jenkins and Long said they understood that the league has the right to create policies like this, but both thought it was reactionary. Long said he envisions this whole saga getting “messier.”
“There’s already been a lot of backlash,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think anybody likes being told that they can’t speak up or can’t do something.”