Malcolm Jenkins responds to criticism after ending his protest during anthem

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/phi/" data-ylk="slk:Philadelphia Eagles">Philadelphia Eagles</a> safety <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/9278/" data-ylk="slk:Malcolm Jenkins">Malcolm Jenkins</a> chose not to protest during the national anthem on Sunday. (AP)
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins chose not to protest during the national anthem on Sunday. (AP)

Responding to criticism about his decision to stop protesting during the national anthem after the NFL pledged $89 million to the Players Coalition for their fight against racial inequality, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said, “To hear people call me or anyone else a sell-out is insulting.”

Reportedly in hopes of ending widespread protests that garnered national attention since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in protest during “The Star-Spangled Banner” last year, the NFL recently agreed to donate $89 million through 2023 to charities supporting social justice reform in coordination with the coalition founded by Jenkins and Anquan Boldin.

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In response, Jenkins opted not to raise his fist during the national anthem before Philadelphia’s game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. That drew heavy criticism from a handful of players who withdrew from the coalition following its arrangement with the NFL, including 49ers safety Eric Reid, who joined Kaepernick in protest last season and continues to kneel for the national anthem.

Reid went on to call the NFL’s pledge “a charade” and another attempt by the league to appease the public without actually addressing issues such as domestic violence or concussion research. He specifically took issue with the agreement to give five owners and two league office representatives majority control of a 12-person committee in charge of allocating the league’s $89 million pledge.

Jenkins responded to this and other criticisms in an open letter to multiple media outlets, including CBS Sports. In addition to supporting players still protesting, he capped the letter with this:

“What the NFL has done is a good first step — it’s not going to solve the massive problems we have in our cities and states across this country, but it’s a start. And, more importantly, I’m glad we were able to get them to acknowledge their responsibility and role in trying to help solve these problems and injustices. They are making a major commitment, more than they have done for any other charitable initiative, to provide us with the marketing platform to educate millions of fans about social justice, racial inequality and the work players are doing in criminal justice reform, police accountability/transparency and education/economic advancement.

“For myself and the Players Coalition, it was never about the money or having our voices bought. To hear people call me or anyone else a sell-out is insulting. It has always been, and will always be, about lifting the voices of the people and the work of those that fight for them. God Bless.”

Fellow coalition member and Eagles teammate Torrey Smith backed Jenkins in a series of tweets:

If the NFL thought its $89 million pledge would significantly curb the number of protests during the national anthem, it does not appear the league succeeded. Even as Jenkins did not raise his fist, 10 Seahawks players continued to demonstrate on the opposing sideline. Eight players, led by coalition member Michael Bennett, sat on the bench for the anthem, while Duane Brown kneeled and teammate Justin Britt stood with his hand on his fellow offensive lineman’s shoulder in support.

Players from 10 other teams also continued to protest racial inequality during the national anthem on Sunday, including four players who withdrew from the coalition last week: Reid, Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung and Miami Dolphins teammates Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills.

President Donald Trump has often spent his Monday mornings on Twitter criticizing player protests. He did not address the matter this week. He instead spent his time on social media supporting a Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers and urging people to watch Fox News for its supportive coverage of his alleged ties to Russia. Maybe the NFL considers that a win.

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