The Philadelphia Eagles will play in front of a national audience Monday night when they take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago. As excited as fans are to see Carson Wentz action once more much of the pre game conversation is revolving around cornerback Malcolm Jenkins and his plan to make ‘a statement’ of some sort during the National Anthem.
Jenkins has indicated that he is taking this stand to call attention to the issue of racial injustice in America. He hasn’t indicated exactly what he is going to do but a number of his teammates are expected to join him in his protest.
The issue has gained currency in the National Football League since San Francisco 49’er quarterback Colin Kaepernick declined to stand for the anthem during the preseason and the movement, if that’s what it is, has spread through the league and even to other levels of football.
Kaepernick, Jenkins, and others have their critics. But Jenkins himself has made an effort to reach out to those who may not necessarily agree with his stand. He spoke with his coach Doug Pederson earlier this week and let him know in advance what he planned to do. He also made it a point not to protest on the field last week in the season opener, the 15th anniversary of 9-11 when a corps of first responders joined the Eagles and the Cleveland Browns on the field prior to kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field.
I don’t necessarily agree with what Jenkins and his teammates are planning but I wholeheartedly support their right to do it. They are exercising the Constitutional rights granted to every American.
Unfortunately a lot of people who embrace that ideal in theory fail to do so in practice. They subscribe to the notion that any show of disrespect to the anthem or the flag undermines the foundation of the nation, or is disrespectful toward the military.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the men and women who serve our nation in uniform have fought and died so that Malcolm Jenkins, Colin Kapernick, and others, can exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech. The National Football League and its teams, to their credit, understand that.
Malcolm Jenkins makes a very good living as a professional athlete. But by doing so he has not forfeited his right to speak out and, to his everlasting credit, he is concerned about issues beyond the playing field and the locker room.
Some who will attend or watch Monday’s game aren’t comfortable with that notion. But every man, or woman, has a right to take a stand. And for that, we should all be thankful.