This has been a tumultuous season for the NFL. With ratings continuing to go the wrong direction, increasingly upset advertisers, and President Trump excoriating the league throughout the season, the NFL has paid a steep price for the players’ social activism. One player, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, may be starting a trend in the right direction as he’s decided to retire his national anthem protest.
Sporting News reports that “Malcolm Jenkins believes he has done his part to raise awareness of racial injustices and inequality enough to end his raised-fist demonstration during the national anthem.”
Jenkins told reporters, “I don’t anticipate demonstrating this week simply because I felt like when I started demonstrating, my whole motivation was to draw awareness to disenfranchised people, communities of color, injustices around the country, our criminal justice system.” He added, “And obviously through this year and talking with the league and what they’ve kind of proposed, I feel like has presented a bigger and better platform to continue to raise that awareness and continue to [influence] positive change.”
The hiccup in the report that should call into question Jenkin’s integrity both during his protest and now with his decision to end it is that “Jenkins told Omnisport last month he needed the social landscape, especially within the league, to change in order to end his protest.”
I’m not sure what has changed, other than the national anthem protests by NFL players have seemingly backfired. The demographic that the protests play well to does not really include the traditional football fan. Social justice warriors don’t include the types of people who are generally into sports. On the flip-side, the traditional football fan tends to be flag-waving patriots from middle America.
While I can’t know for sure, it seems that the potential for the NFL’s woes to trickle down into the players’ paychecks may play at least some part in Jenkins’ decision to end his national anthem protest.
Sporting News reveals another possible reason for Jenkins’ suspension of his protests that doesn’t call into question his integrity. Although, it seems suspect, too.
Jenkins is one of the leaders on the Players Coalition, a group of player reps who have met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to address social issues. The NFL and the Players Coalition reached an agreement on Wednesday for the league to pledge $89 million toward social justice causes supported by players.
Jenkins helped form the coalition with now-retired receiver Anquan Boldin, who believes the new agreement with the league provides the necessary incentives for players to discontinue certain demonstrations during the playing of the anthem. Dolphins safety Michael Thomas and 49ers safety Eric Reid disagree and withdrew from the coalition because they don’t think the agreement reached Wednesday best serves the interests of the players.
If all that Jenkins needed to stop his protest was money donated to his favorite causes, why didn’t he use his influence to spearhead fundraisers months ago? It seems that all the trouble caused by the protests demands a more substantial response (whatever that response is/was supposed to be) than rich people donating money to charity. Regardless, maybe we can now set aside the silly protests and get back to football.