With Colin Kaepernick and his former San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid both out of jobs as the NFL kicks off its 2018 season, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has emerged as the new face of the league’s player protests. According to Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, who is a member of the Players Coalition co-founded by Jenkins and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin last year, Jenkins has brought a sense of leadership and direction to the players’ cause that was lacking when Kaepernick and Reid began kneeling for the national anthem during the 2016 preseason.
“They weren’t really organized and communicating with nobody,” Norman recently told The Post’s Kent Babb of Reid and Kaepernick. “[Jenkins] was one of those who had a better plan than what was going on. He had got the guys and officials to work with him on so many things, and that’s what we’re going with.”
Last November, as the NFL and the Players Coalition neared an agreement in principle that called for the league and teams to provide nearly $90 million over seven years to charitable causes aimed at combating social inequality, several players, including Reid and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas, withdrew from the Players Coalition. At the time, there were reports that owners hoped the agreement would lead all NFL players to voluntarily stand for the national anthem going forward. After announcing his defection from the Players Coalition, Reid said Jenkins had kicked Kaepernick out of the group following a meeting at the beginning of the season. Jenkins refuted that claim.
“It’s false,” Jenkins said in a statement to ESPN. “I’ve talked with Colin numerous times about being a part of the Coalition. He thought it would be best to work and support us in an informal capacity.”
Norman told Babb that Kaepernick, who has made few public appearances since opting out of his contract with the 49ers in March 2017, refused to participate in the Players Coalition’s negotiations with the league.
“When he took a knee, everybody was in shock and everything, but when the bullets start flying, I was trying to figure out where he was at. He was ducking,” Norman said of Kaepernick. “When you’re in the line of fire and the guys that are over here are trying to have a conversation to move stuff forward, he didn’t want to have that conversation.”
Norman’s comments sparked additional headlines, including on this site, and additional debate. “What’s your reaction to Josh Norman criticizing Colin Kaepernick?” read the chyron on FS1’s “Undisputed,” as Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless weighed in on Norman’s words Thursday morning.
When asked about Kaepernick at Redskins Park on Thursday afternoon, Norman brought up his comments to Babb. He said he wanted to clarify that it was never his intention to “tear down” Kaepernick, and that he didn’t consider his previous comments critical of the quarterback.
“I said something earlier about [Kaepernick] and it was nothing that I want to tear down what he’s done or what he has been doing, not at all,” Norman said. “I’m not in this thing to tear down another brother and what he’s doing. Nor will I ever be that guy. There was a question asked of me a couple weeks ago if I’m not mistaken … [and] it was something that was said that everyone was thinking was critical. But critical things are things you either do not know or you have some kind of thought upon that on the critical side. Nothing that I said was critical, because when it was factual information that you can see and you can read, then you are in that thing and you are not a pawn to it, then you obviously know. But I’m not in this game to throw anybody under the bus or what they [are] trying to do. Like I said, all power to him, he hasn’t invaded my bubble, did anything to me. Of course I want to praise him and what he has been doing this far and all the things he has continued to do. For sure, I will lift him up in that aspect.”
Kaepernick provides the voice-over for a new Nike ad that will reportedly air during Thursday’s NFL opener between the Eagles and Falcons in Philadelphia, where it remains to be seen whether players will protest during the national anthem. The Post’s Mark Maske reported Wednesday that it was unclear when the league and the NFL Players Association would come to a new agreement on a new anthem policy. A potential compromise could involve owners agreeing to waive discipline for a player who chooses to protest during the national anthem in exchange for the union endorsing players to stand. Meanwhile, Jenkins told Babb he thinks it’s time for players to find new ways to protest.
“Me personally, I really want to get this conversation to move away from the anthem,” Jenkins said. “I think it has served its purpose.”
This post has been updated with Norman’s comments from Thursday. Les Carpenter contributed to this report.
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