“I personally do not anticipate attending that,” Jenkins told CNN’s “New Day” hours after the possible visit became reality with the Eagles’ 41-33 upset victory Sunday in Minneapolis.
“I don’t have a message for the president,” Jenkins said in the interview. “My message has been clear all year. I’m about creating positive change in the communities that I come from. . . . I want to see changes in our criminal justice system. I want to see us push for economical and educational advancement in communities of color and low-income communities, and I want to see our relationships between our communities and our law enforcement be advanced. That’s what myself and my peers have been pushing for the last two years, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
Jenkins emerged as a prominent player voice this season, when demonstrations during the pregame national anthem became one of the season’s dominant story lines. The 30-year old became a leader of the Players Coalition, a group seeking ways to work with NFL owners to convert activism to action.
“I didn’t realize that the platform could be this big until Colin Kaepernick first took a knee,” Jenkins told The Washington Post last week, referring to the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who sparked this wave of player activism. “When he did that, that was kind of an ‘aha’ moment for me. I’d already been doing work in the community. … But when it comes to how to actually amplify your voice, when I saw what Colin Kaepernick did and the amount of coverage and conversation around it, that’s when I truly realized how much influence we have as athletes.”
And he found a locker-room ally in Long, who stood with an arm on Jenkins’s shoulder before games as the safety sought to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality. Long said last week he would not be visiting the White House if the Eagles were to win the Super Bowl and, on Monday, Jenkins joined him in passing up a potential visit with President Trump, who was critical of NFL players and called for owners to fire any “son of a bitch” who protested by taking a knee or remaining seated during the anthem.
Trump released a pregame statement Sunday urging players to “proudly stand for the anthem,” and he congratulated the Eagles after their victory. No players knelt or sat during the anthem Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
Long, who was stirred by violence in his Charlottesville hometown to donate his 2017 salary to educational charities, said, “Are you kidding me?” when asked on the “Pardon My Take” podcast if he would visit the White House. In an April video looking back at the Patriots’ comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in last year’s Super Bowl, Long said, “[When] my son grows up, and I believe the legacy of our president is going to be what it is, I don’t want him to say, ‘Hey, Dad, why’d you go [to the White House] when you knew the right thing was to not go?’ ”
“If you don’t see why you need allies for people that are fighting for equality right now, I don’t think you’ll ever see it,” Long said in August. “So my thing is, Malcolm is a leader, and I’m here to show support as a white athlete.”
Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, who called Trump “the most divisive person in this entire country” in a since-deleted tweet last fall, also told reporters last week that he would skip the White House visit.
“It goes beyond politics,” Smith tweeted Monday, when asked why he would skip a visit to Trump’s White House. “I don’t think he is a good person.”
Questions about a potential White House trip now accompany seemingly every pro sports championship. Trump’s comments about the NFL this fall sparked a pointed response from many NBA stars, and he rescinded his invitation to the champion Golden State Warriors. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins visited the White House in October, while some members of the Chicago Cubs visited Trump in the White House in June, after they had already visited former president Barack Obama at the White House in January. Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn has said she would decline a White House invitation if she wins a medal at the PyeongChang Olympics, which begin this week.
Beyond Long, a handful of Patriots declined, for political reasons, to attend the team’s White House visit in April.
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