Eagles safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod were on the practice field Tuesday when Roger Goodell sent a memo to NFL teams saying that the league believes “that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.”
“The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues,” Goodell’s letter continues. “We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”
When Jenkins and McLeod fielded questions, just as they normally do on issues both on and off the football field afterwards, they seemed skeptical that the league would actually take measures to silence their right to free speech.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” McLeod, who regularly joins Jenkins raising a fist on the sideline during the anthem, said. “A lot of guys are very prideful in bringing notice to things they believe strongly in. This is my first time hearing about this but I think what the league should do is to talk to a lot of the leaders around the league and the NFLPA and see if they can come to some sort of agreement to possibly satisfy both sides.”
As Jenkins has said repeatedly, the players who sit, take a knee or demonstrait are simply taking advantage of their best means for making a statement. They are not protesting the anthem or the flag in anyway — just drawing attention to what those symbols of America are supposed to represent.
Still, under pressure from President Donald Trump and from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, it seems the NFL will likely seek some kind of new guideline or rule when the owners meet next week. Jenkins has a good relationship with Commissioner Goodell, and is hopeful that he’ll do the right thing for the players.
“I’ve talked to him multiple times and he’s always been receptive,” Jenkins, who has been a leader on this issue for the last two seasons, said. “He came to Philly and did a listen and learn tour for an entire day. It’s on individual owners and cities and teams, that dialogue will continue.”
In Dallas, Jones told his players that if they didn’t stand for the anthem he would bench them. Said Jenkins on Jones, “He doesn’t own the team I play for.”
But what if the NFL made the restriction league-wide?
“I don’t think this would stop anybody from trying to push for change and for justice,” Jenkins said, citing that it wouldn’t be the first rule of its kind should it come to fruition. “Players have always found new ways. They can try.”
Even players who are not activist seem to be on the side of free speech, not the owners — whose main concern is making money and keeping the NFL controversy free and popular.
“I’ve always stood for the National Anthem,” Fletcher Cox said. “I don’t get into those things that everyone else gets into it, but I do support my teammates that do do things like that, they have good reasons for it.”