Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has been an outspoken advocate for social justice, but he made one of his most powerful statements Wednesday without saying anything at all.
Two days after the Eagles were disinvited from a White House celebration of their Super Bowl 52 victory, Jenkins met with a huge crowd of reporters but stood silently and held up signs with messages for the media.
The signs contained facts about racial inequality and reasons for criminal justice reform, as well as messages about the social justice initiatives that many NFL players have taken on. Jenkins later tweeted all of the messages.
In order, the signs — including a “YOU AREN’T LISTENING” sign that was raised multiple times — read as follows:
MORE THAN 60%
OF PEOPLE IN PRISON
NEARLY 200,000 JUVENILES
ENTER THE ADULT
EACH YEAR, MOST FOR
IN 2018, 439 PEOPLE SHOT AND KILLED BY POLICE (THUS FAR}
IN U.S. POP —> 8% = AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES
SHOT BY POLICE —> 25% = AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES
ANY GIVEN NIGHT 500,000 SIT IN JAIL
POOR? YES #ENDCASHBAIL
ANQUAN BOLDIN DOUG BALDWIN
RICHARD SHERMAN DEVIN MCCOURTY
JOSH NORMAN CHRIS LONG TORREY SMITH
RODNEY MCLEOD MICHAEL BENNETT
BEN WATSON DEMARIO DAVIS CARL DAVIS
KELVIN BEACHUM MATT SLATER JOSH MCCOWN
DURON HARMON JOHNSON BADEMOSI
BEN WATSON AND DEMARIO DAVIS
HELPED PUSH THROUGH
LA HOUSE BILL 265
RESTORING VOTING RIGHTS
DEVIN MCCOURTY, DURON HARMON,
MATT SLATER AND JOHNSON BADEMOSI
RAISE THE AGE
FROM 7 TO 12 ENTERING
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
GAVE $1 MILLION
ENTIRE YEAR’S SALARY
Jenkins finished the press conference by holding up the “YOU AREN’T LISTENING” sign a fifth time after a reporter asked “Who isn’t listening?”
A week later, Jenkins and other Eagles defensive backs hung “YOU AREN’T LISTENING” shirts in the Philadelphia locker room.
The Eagles were disinvited from the White House after President Donald Trump learned that a tiny contingent of players — possibly just two — planned to be at the celebration Tuesday. In February, Jenkins waited less than 24 hours after the team’s victory to tell CNN he didn’t plan on making the White House visit.
Trump accused Eagles players of disagreeing with his insistence that they “proudly stand, hand on heart” during the playing of the national anthem. But no Eagles players kneeled during the anthem during the 2017 season, and the reason Colin Kaepernick and other players kneeled was to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
In a statement Tuesday, Jenkins said Trump made a decision to lie “and paint the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag and anti-military.”
Without speaking Wednesday, Jenkins delivered a message that the media has spent too much time entertaining a debate about players kneeling during the anthem, and not enough time listening to the reasons for the protests or the causes NFL players have supported.
On Wednesday night, Jenkins spoke to ESPN about why he decided to deliver his message on the signs
“I’m tired of the narrative being about the anthem, about the White House or whatever,” Jenkins said. “The issues are the issues. And the reason that we’re doing any of this is because we have these huge disparities in our criminal justice system; we have this issue of mass incarceration; we have issues of police brutality; our children and access to education and economic advancement is nonexistent in communities of color. And these things are systemic; there are ways that we can change them.
“And for me, I feel like this is the time to do that. And so, that message can’t continue to be ignored. And that’s what I think has been happening up until this point. So we just have to continue to stay on topic and continue to push the issues — and not this narrative of who’s right and who’s wrong, but what are the reasons why players are even so passionate about this.”
Among those causes was Louisiana House Bill 265, which was supported and pushed by Saints players Ben Watson and Demario Davis. The bill will return voting rights to thousands of people with past felony convictions, along with those on parole or probation, and was signed into law by the Louisiana governor last week.
Jenkins also brought attention to Chris Long donating his entire 2017 salary to organizations devoted to educational equality.
Jenkins has made similar efforts to influence lawmakers, even spending three days on Capitol Hill in 2017 with three other NFL players to advocate for criminal justice reform. Jenkins made clear Wednesday that Trump disinviting the Eagles isn’t going to curb his fight, and he won’t let Trump misrepresent what they’re fighting for.