Over the last year, we have seen a growing intersect between sports and politics. Athletes feel more empowered to use their platforms to discuss their beliefs and support causes they are passionate about. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has been at the forefront of that among Philadelphia athletes and, once again, Jenkins expressed his beliefs in a recent podcast with The Ringer that centered on Donald Trump’s relationship with the NFL.
“Now you have a president who, so far, has not mentioned anything about criminal justice reform, has talked about stop-and-frisk, has talked about sending more police to Chicago, [has made] more executive orders to back and support police without doing anything to back and support communities, [and] has talked about cutting the budget that includes community and police relationship-building. Because that’s the direction that this administration is going, there is a huge push to wake people out right now. Before he redoes everything that’s been put in place, and we take steps back and then things get worse.”
Jenkins has been a staunch and outspoken critic of criminal justice and police violence over the last year. Not only did he participate in protesting during the National Anthem; he engaged with talks with Philadelphia’s mayor, members of the police department and even went to Washington with other NFL players to talk about criminal justice and community reforms. He has been a man of action in the city of Philadelphia and around the country about the causes he cares about.
The topic of Donald Trump is one that is polarizing across the country and that divisiveness has manifested itself in the NFL. The league has thousands of people from all walks of life and Donald Trump’s rhetoric touches each player in a different way. For Jenkins, he expressed his fear regarding Trump’s rhetoric surrounding police interactions with the community and his general understanding of how black communities function.
With Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the fold, the Trump administration has expressed a desire to ramp up the war on drugs and expand the private prison industry while also publicly endorsing Stop and Frisk, which was deemed ineffective and unconstitutional. The continual ambivalence from the administration regarding the outcry of the Black Lives Matter movement speaks louder than anything that could be spoken or done.
Jenkins also discussed how Donald Trump and American politics in general were interacted with differently across the league. He cited the 49ers support of Colin Kaepernick’s protest and causes, the Dolphins forcing their players to stand for the anthem and the Patriots organization’s very public relationship with the president.
Unsurprisingly, Jenkins did not mince words on his feelings and delivered a fantastic and insightful interview. Jenkins’ interaction with politics, as well as athletes’ relationship with politics in general, has a tendency to irk fans. At the least, people watch and interact sports to escape from the everyday stress of politics among other things, but athletes’ public politics tend to crash that notion of something being purely entertainment, and that frustrates people. At the most, it is a direct conflict with peoples’ politics that people see as unacceptable. Regardless, it is important to appreciate or at least respect where Jenkins is coming from. No one can tell Malcolm Jenkins how to feel about anything besides Malcolm Jenkins. Listen to the podcast and you hear someone who has legitimate and well-informed stances on how politics affect him and athletes across the league. He has general concerns that have nothing to do with democrats and republicans, but about how people’s lives are impacted by politics, specifically regarding police brutality. Just as he spoke out against police violence under Barack Obama, he continues to preach the importance of healthy police-community relations under Donald Trump.
When we are on our couches or in the stands cheering, it is easy to forget that the players are people too. Their lives and identities have constantly been politicized and now many athletes are finding solid ground to stand on and speak about how the world around them affects them. With Malcolm Jenkins, his personal, but very public, politics are strongly put but also backed up by facts and actions by Jenkins himself. While people may disagree with him and his politics, it is inspiring to have such an outspoken and compassionate public figure in Philadelphia. When you consider Jenkins’ politics, realize they are guided by the want to improve lives, not by party lines. As he continues to be a staple on the Philadelphia defense and in the locker room, I am looking forward to Jenkins continuing his political outreach as representative of the city of Philadelphia.