Unmoved by that fact, Mathis and Kelce approached the fans and asked them to remove the banner. The players have said that they did not threaten the fans; they merely asked them to take the sign down, and the fans complied. From that point on, Mathis and Kelce have been hammered non-stop on Philly talk radio, which is one environment in which an excuse to bash everything in sight is usually not needed. When something is served up like the hanging slider the two Eagles pitched, all bets are off.
To try and mollify an increasingly apoplectic fan base, Mathis and Kelce recently made statements about why they felt justified in telling fans to remove a legal (and some would say justified) way of sending a message to the team and the coach.
"I support our fans," Kelce told Philly.com's Jonathan Tamari. "I support everyone that roots for us, everyone that comes to the games. That's the wrong message that's being displayed right now. I support freedom of speech. If you want to go out to talk bad stuff about the coaches or things like that do it on a blog, do it wherever you want, but don't bring it to our front door right now when we're 1-4 trying to get better, we don't need that kind of division on the team right now."
Yeah, but it's not a member of the team putting that sign up — it's a member of a fan base that, no matter its general reputation, supports the team and has the right to represent its feelings in legal and ethical ways. Don't these fans have the right to be angry?
"They have the right to do that just as much as I have the right to tell them — ask them — to take a sign down," Kelce said. "I support their freedom of speech and I support their right to say anything they want to. But what I want them to do is do that on a blog, do it in the media, but keep it away from here. Right now, we're trying to come together as a team and get this thing fixed. We don't need people calling for our coach's head right in front of us on our front door when we're trying to get better."
Mathis said basically the same thing. "We're trying to come together as a team and stay together as a team and create a positive environment around here and it's different if you're going to write about it or call in to a radio show or blog about it or talk amongst your friends about it. To go in our front yard and put something so negative right here — I stand by telling them to take that down," he said.
"I didn't want anything negative out there that could have any kind of potential to create a divide in this team, so we asked them, take it down."
I understand Kelce's and Mathis' point of view on this — it doesn't help anyone to see a sign like that when you're going into your place of business. But it's just as easy to contend that if the Eagles players actually think one sign could possibly create or foster a divide in the team, the team's problems go a lot further than what's on the field.
This isn't "Occupy NovaCare!" — it's a couple of guys and one stupid sign. And based on the team's performance this year, it's not unjustified to think, and speak, and act that way, and putting up signs to that effect is the right of a fan as long as it's done on public property. Sure, Kelce and Mathis had the equal right to ask the fans to take the sign down, and you'd expect them to do so. But the reasons for doing so ring hollow.
It's a good thing the current Eagles weren't part of any players' strike in the past — they'd have had a lot more to deal with than one little sign.
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- Evan Mathis