The Eagles safety raised his fist during a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” just as he did for every regular season game last season, except for one played on Sept. 11. At the time, Jenkins explained, “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t do anything to take away from the families that suffered from 9/11.”
On Thursday, before Philadelphia took on the Green Bay Packers, Jenkins issued a statement in which he said, “Last season, I raised my fist as a sign of solidarity to support people, especially people of color, who were and are still unjustly losing their lives at the hands of officers with little to no consequence.
“After spending time with police officers on ride-alongs, meeting with politicians on the state and federal level and grass roots organizations fighting for human rights, it’s clear that our criminal justice system is still crippling communities of color through mass incarceration.”
That stated reason is similar to Kaepernick’s explanations for why he made his protests, which began in last year’s preseason, when he was a member of the 49ers. Those protests inspired other NFL players, as well as athletes at other levels of football and in other sports, to emulate his example, and many believe the protests are the reason the 29-year-old Kaepernick is still unsigned.
Jenkins called NFL owners “cowards” last week (via the Delaware News Journal) for being too afraid of “backlash” from some fans to sign Kaepernick. “Fans’ input has never been in the equation when it comes to signing people in the past,” Jenkins said. “It’s certain owners’ way of making an example out of [Kaepernick] to discourage anybody else from doing what he did.”
Jenkins showed that he was not discouraged from continuing his protest, and as with Kaepernick, he has not confined his activism to the pregame sidelines. In March, Jenkins was among several NFL players, including Anquan Boldin and Josh McCown, who met with House Speaker Paul Ryan and other members of Congress to advocate for legislation that could lead to improved relations between minority communities and local police.
“With the new call for a war on crime and drugs, the disproportionate oppression of poor communities and communities of color will continue unless legislative efforts and community engagement are made a priority,” Jenkins said in his statement Thursday. “I’ve seen signs of life with regards to bipartisan support for criminal justice reform, but the support does not reflect the necessary urgency for real reform. This must be made a priority.
“As the blowback against those who stand up for what is right thickens, I feel it is necessary to push forward with a relentless determination. I want to send a message that we will not easily be moved or deterred from fighting for justice.
“There are many players across the league who have joined me in working toward new legislation and reestablishing trust and opportunities in our communities, and you can expect to see much more of that. … I want to challenge those who stay silent to be courageous and use your platforms to become part of the solution. God Bless.”
A first-round pick by the Saints in 2009, Jenkins joined the Eagles as a free agent in 2014 and was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2015. Last year, he set up a charitable foundation to “effectuate positive change in the lives of youth, particularly those in underserved communities,” and he met with Philadelphia police chief Charles Ramsey to voice his concerns.