Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins: ‘I’m Tired of the Narrative Being About the Anthem’

Malcolm Jenkins
AP Photo/Michael Perez

Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins tried a different tactic in speaking about the NFL’s national anthem protests, by holding little sings for the press to read and saying he is tired of people thinking that the players are protesting the flag and our soldiers.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Jenkins held a sign that said “you’re not listening” and then held signs featuring statistics about the criminal justice system. Later, Jenkins insisted that the anthem protests are about inequities in the justice system, not about protesting against the country, Pro Football Talk reported.

Jenkins complained to ESPN that too many Americans are mischaracterizing the player protests.

In an interview with ESPN on Wednesday night, Jenkins said he desires to re-focus the debate on the issues he and other players are advocating for and not the divisive situation that has developed over the protests.

I’m tired of the narrative being about the anthem, about the White House or whatever. 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.

Like Jenkins, many players have insisted that their protests during the anthem are about police brutality, but this is not what the man who invented the protests said about his demonstration.

Early in his protests in 2016, former San Francisco 49er second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick outlined his motivations to the Media: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” the former Super Bowl starter explained. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Indeed, after the protest, it was found that Kaepernick had tweeted out the claim that the USA was no different at all from the slave-holding Confederacy of Civil War infamy. In a social media post that Kaepernick soon deleted when criticism of his anthem protest began to grow, the player posted an image of the U.S. and Confederate flags. He captioned the photo: “The fact that you really believe that there is difference in these flags means that your [sic] ignoring history.”

In another anti-American outburst, Kaepernick insisted that his protests were meant to “make America great for the first time.” In so many words, the player was saying that America is not now and has never been a great nation.

Many players have also said that the protests were not against all police but only a demonstration against bad cops. However, Kaepernick also wore socks depicting cops as pigs. He never said his socks were about bad cops. They portrayed all cops as pigs.

Kaepernick, at least early in his protest, was explicit that he was kneeling against the United States and against all police officers, and not just protesting inequality.

So, it is no wonder that many Americans view the protests as an attack on the country and our first responders.

Furthermore, the “confusion” that has made Jenkins so upset is proof of why it was a bad idea in the first place to mount a protest during the playing of the nation’s anthem. When players choose to protest during the anthem, the debate becomes about the anthem. It does not become about the ideas that compelled the players to protest in the first place. Over the last three years, we have spent far more time debating proper respect for the anthem and flag, than we have the ideas which initially compelled Kaepernick to kneel.

Which proves the point, that protesting during the anthem is a singularly awful idea.

Not to mention the tremendous disrespect such a protest shows to those who fought and died for what the flag and anthem represent.

Now that Jenkins has come to the full realization of just how bad an idea it was to protest during the anthem, he’s trying desperately to force the genie back into the bottle. And it’s simply too late for that.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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