“Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins delivers a message to President Donald Trump,” reads the YouTube description for this clip. Is that right? Based on the Trump-centric questions being asked of him by the reporters clustered around his locker, I think his message is for the media itself to stop fixating on drama between the president and the league and to devote more coverage to the issue that drove the protests to begin with. Jenkins would say, I expect, that Trump himself is a lost cause. He wouldn’t listen even if the signs here were in neon.
The “Subterranean Homesick Blues” treatment is a clever way to try to refocus the anthem debate. You can see it happen in real time: The reporters have to stop, quiet down, and actually think for a second to process what he’s saying. And in a soundbite culture, with an infinite number of talking heads chattering on an infinite number of screens unto eternity, deliberate silence is arresting. Jenkins, incidentally, hasn’t kneeled for the anthem at games but he did raise his fist during the playing of it for much of last season. (He stopped after the NFL started donating to causes favored by the players.) He does most of his activism off-field, though, which is true of the team as a whole:
Take Jenkins, for example. An outspoken proponent of criminal justice reform, the ninth-year pro has met with lawmakers on several occasions to discuss how to improve race relations between communities of color and local police departments. Additionally, he has held meetings with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross and conducted ride-alongs with Philly police.
Jenkins has also taken it upon himself to help these communities. In 2016 alone, the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation launched “a new educational program in Philadelphia; celebrat[ed] the first college cohort of Malcolm Jenkins Scholars in Louisiana; assist[ed] 1,200 families with food and essential resources in Ohio and mentor[ed] 425 youth through the 6th annual Next Level Youth Football Camp in New Jersey among other events and programs throughout the year.”
The Eagles do a lot of charitable work in their free time, notes Dan King, and not a single one kneeled during the anthem last year. Why try to make an example of them when they’re engaging in activism the “right way”?
According to the NFL Network, the one and only player who was confirmed to attend yesterday’s White House ceremony was Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Some of the fans who were planning to show must have bugged out too after the ceremony was canceled because the crowd at yesterday’s patriotic singalong was padded with political staffers:
Many of the people on the lawn were men in their 20s and 30s, and they wore navy blue suits and ties, or navy blue blazers and khakis, and most of them had short haircuts and appeared to have just showered, and all of them held American flags. I’ve seen Eagles fans. Generally, they don’t look like that. “We’re all staffers,” one of them said. Jenna Webster, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is interning at the Republican National Committee, said that she had received a mass email from the White House earlier in the day, inviting her to attend the event. She was not visibly bothered that the Eagles had abandoned her.
Minor surprise: Carson Wentz, a devout Christian from deep red North Dakota, didn’t want to go meet Trump either? Huh. I wonder how Foles ended up as the lone player on the RSVP list. Is he a Trump fan? Did he draw the short straw? Did Jeff Lurie lean on him and say that if they were going to insult Trump by sending a tiny delegation, having the star of the Super Bowl there might blunt the insult? Mysteries abound.