Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long Slam NFL Anthem Decision

Chris Long, Malcolm Jenkins
The Associated Press

May 23 (UPI) — Malcolm Jenkins was one of several players to respond to the NFL’s decision to reprimand teams and league personnel for not standing during the national anthem.

Chris Long — Jenkins’ Philadelphia Eagles teammate — also issued a statement after the league’s announcement on Wednesday afternoon. The decision was made by the 32 member clubs of the NFL, according to a statement from commissioner Roger Goodell.

The NFL Players Association said it was not consulted during the development of the new policy.

“What NFL owners did today was thwart the players’ constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality in our country,” Jenkins said. “Everyone loses when voices get stifled.

“While I disagree with this decision, I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting. The national conversation around race in America that NFL players forced over the past two years will persist as we continue to use our voices, our time and our money to create a more fair and just criminal justice system, end police brutality and foster better educational and economic opportunities for communities of color and those struggling in this country.

“For me, this has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone’s patriotism but doing what we can to effect real change for real people. #TheFightContinues.”

Goodell echoed Jenkins’ sentiment when it came to patriotism.

“The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed,” Goodell wrote in his statement. “The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress.

“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.”

Long, who stood alongside Jenkins during his pregame protests, said he will “continue to be committed to affecting change” with his platform.

“This is fear of a diminished bottom line,” he wrote on social media. “It’s also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don’t get it confused. These owners don’t love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it. It also lets you, the fan, know where our league stands.

“I will continue to be committed to affecting change with my platform. I’m someone who’s always looked at the anthem as a declaration of ideals, including the right to peaceful protest. Our league continues to fall short on this issue.”

NFLPA Statement

“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy.’ NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.

“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our league.

“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

Around the League

Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor questioned why players weren’t consulted before the decision was made.

“To make a decision that strong, you would hope that the players have input on it,” Taylor told reporters. “But obviously not. So we have to deal with it as players, for good or a bad thing. At the end of the day, they call the shots, make the rules, so that’s what we have to abide by. I think the main thing out of all of it is that each ball club is having open communication with the players and ownership about the issues that are going on in the community and trying to change it.

“I know that [the Browns] and even the team that I came from in Buffalo, they have been proactive about the situation and trying to do things in the community. So I think that should be the focus now, and hopefully it is moving forward.”

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase told the media Wednesday that he still had to be debriefed on the new policy. Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson said he would wait for Gase to speak to the team about it before he would “have something to say.”

Denver Broncos defensive tackle Domata Peko said that the anthem is a “big deal” for him.

“For me, I always stand for the anthem,” Peko told reporters. “I respect the U.S. I respect our country. I respect the men and women that have fought for us. The anthem for me is also a big deal. I like to really zone in and get ready for the game. It’s a good, nice, long song there where you can really get ready. I really respect it. I’m definitely going to be standing for our country. I heard a little bit about the rule changes where I think you can stay inside if you want to kneel or whatever. You can just wait inside, but I respect the guys that want to stand up or stay inside for their rights. I kind of feel both ways about it on that one. I respect both sides of that.”

New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said the Jets will pay the fine if a player takes a knee during the anthem.

“I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players,” Johnson told Newsday. “Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines.”

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he was proud of his team last season for standing up during the anthem, but he didn’t know anything about the decision when asked by reporters.

“I think it’s important that we stand for the anthem,” he said. “I think it’s important that we represent our country the right way, the flag the right way. I probably shouldn’t get on a tangent, but a lot of people have died for that flag and that flag represents our country and what we stand for. I think that’s important and I’ll stop there.”

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