Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, defensive end Steven Means, cornerback Ron Brooks, and defensive end Marcus Smith united to protest by raising their fists in the air during the national anthem prior to the team’s Monday Night Football matchup against the Bears in Chicago.
Only Jenkins, Means, and Brooks were shown raising their fists on television. Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Smith also joined the protest.
These players follow the example set by Colin Kaepernick beginning during the preseason. As each week passes, more NFL players join in the protests, which are intended to increase awareness of social injustice, particularly oppression of black Americans.
The Eagles had discussed a protest during the season opener at home against the Cleveland Browns, but players decided they did not want to interfere with recognition of the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001 and the families who were impacted by it.
Malcolm Jenkins said the protest is specifically to spark dialogue on various social injustices.
"For me, it has nothing to do with this country or the flag or the anthem in itself," Jenkins said on Sportsradio 94WIP. "Really, it's just to continue to push forward the conversation about social injustice, and that's a range of things from police brutality to wages and job opportunities, education.
"There's just a lot of things systematically that have been set up in this country since its inception that put minorities, especially African-Americans, at a disadvantage when you talk about quality of life and actually growing in this country."
Many have criticized players' decisions to protest during the anthem, but Jenkins says he won't compromise the truth for others' comfort.
"If it comes down to making somebody uncomfortable by speaking the truth, then I'll always make you uncomfortable with the truth, [rather] than make you feel comfortable with a lie," Jenkins said via Matt Mullin of the Philly Voice.
"If it comes down to making somebody uncomfortable by speaking the truth, then I'll always make you uncomfortable with the truth, [rather] than make you feel comfortable with a lie."
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Jenkins discussed the idea of the protest with him ahead of time, and he respected players’ decisions to demonstrate in this manner.
"I respect players' decisions. It's something they ... everybody has their right to either protest or whatever they're going to do," Pederson said. "Malcolm and I have talked about this, and it's going to happen regardless of what I decide or say, and I respect the players' decisions on it."
Pederson also said he just didn’t want the protest to become a distraction for the team, but with protests mounting around the NFL, he doesn’t feel that’s been the case so far.
"I really don't think it has been a distraction for teams," Pederson said. "I know early on, when Colin (Kaepernick) did his thing, it might've been because of the shock and awe of what happened, but I think now that everyone has sort of embraced it and knows it's going to happen, I think everybody is braced for it, so it won't be a distraction."
As player protests of the national anthem continue, so do the conversations about social injustice in the United States.