Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former Buffalo Bills receiver Anquan Boldin—who retired from the National Football League to focus on activism following the violent events in Charlottesville—addressed the stand many Black players are taking against police violence and systemic racism in a video Jenkins tweeted yesterday (September 6):
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) September 6, 2017
"We feel that it’s our responsibility to take a stand against the injustices that we see happening in America today," Boldin explains in the short clip. Both men then describe some of the issues they wish to fight for during this season, including: criminal justice reform, cash bail abolition, policing reform and "clean slate" legislation, which would seal nonviolent misdemeanor records after a decade.
Jenkins and Boldin also discussed these issues in an interview published by Sports Illustrated on Tuesday (September 5). Jenkins says the following about backlash to player protests:
Guys are protesting for a few different reasons, most of which have to do with the way that people of color and poor people in this country have been treated throughout history, whether that be through police brutality, whether that be through our criminal justice system, the educational gaps, the economic gaps—all of these things play a part into the narrative. There is no one issue that every guy is pushing for, but we are all fighting for the same stuff, and that is equality and justice, however we may go about it. I think there is a lack of a desire to listen. Most people get upset with the demonstration, not for what it stands for; in fact most times, I think they don’t even read or care about what it is, they just are upset at the gesture or the fact that it is during the national anthem. I try to challenge people that you should be just as upset that all of these things are happening in this country. What we are saying that this flag stands for, and justice for all, and the things in our constitution that we hold near and dear, are not being upheld. If you have true patriotism, those should be the things that get you upset and make you want to use that energy to speak out on the injustices that happen, not on the fact that somebody is using their constitutional right.
They also address a new advocacy initiative called the Players Coalition, which they point to with the video’s #PlayersCoalition hashtag. Sports Illustrated describes the coalition as "a group of approximately 40 players across the league, who communicate regularly and help each other to do grassroots work in communities across the United States on specific criminal justice reform issues like ending the cash bail system and juvenile life without parole." Jenkins elaborates on the coalition’s local focus:
So when we are dealing with issues in Pennsylvania, we’re dealing with guys who play for the Eagles, play for the Steelers, Penn Staters, Pittsburgh, all of these guys that have Pennsylvania ties who can use their platform. Same thing with Louisiana, Ohio. As we build this coalition, we’ll operate as a collective whole on a lot of national issues and also be able to create these subgroups that get things done to the unique issues and challenges that are in separate communities. We know that every guy is not necessarily comfortable going to talk to congressmen, but some might want to sign an op-ed or a letter. Some might want to post articles on social media. There are a bunch of different ways to get involved, especially when you talk about the local or state level, because it is so unique to that demographic. We are able to really create a lane for guys to lend their platform and their voice.
Watch their video above and follow the coalition’s activities via #PlayersCoalition.