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Malcolm Jenkins' Criminal Justice Season

In a special early edition of his weekly column, the Eagles safety explains his decision to stop protesting the anthem while continuing to lobby for reform

Editor’s Note: We usually run Malcolm Jenkins’ Criminal Justice Season column on Fridays, but yesterday Malcolm released the following open letter in the aftermath of his decision to no longer protest during the national anthem while continuing to lobby for criminal justice reform. 

It has been my goal for the past two years to raise awareness about some important social injustices that plague our country. The PEOPLE who have been unjustly disenfranchised by our criminal justice system and the PEOPLE who daily fight for them always have, and always will be, the inspiration and focus of my efforts. I’m proud of what my peers and I have been able to accomplish by using the platform we have these last two years. I’m proud to be part of a group of men who are standing up because we can help others. I’m proud of the men who may now disagree with me and our direction, but still played a significant role in getting results through our actions.

We will not be deterred from fighting for justice. There are many players across the league who have joined these efforts toward new legislation, reestablishing trust with our police and helping to create educational and economic opportunities in our communities. I welcome anyone who wants to join us.

The real work began in the summer of 2016, after many of us saw what transpired around Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and others. We realized that we needed to get involved for those men and the many others before them and those who would come later. A lot of work began to educate ourselves on the inner workings of the criminal justice system. When the protests began that fall, it sparked conversation and we all realized our unique platform to raise awareness and get people talking about the issues. It grew from there—guys saw that they had an opportunity to make a difference, and Anquan Boldin rallied a group of us to go to Capitol Hill in November 2016. It kept growing—with a large group of NFL players and others joining the effort.

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.

The stories we have heard and the people we have met these last couple of years keep us going. The children growing up in our cities who don’t get the educations they need or deserve, the inherent discrimination we have seen in our criminal justice system that locks up more black bodies in 2017 than were forced into slavery in the pre-Civil War era, the people who believe their lives don’t matter when they watch time and again their friends, family and neighbors being shot in the street. Did you know that you can be arrested and held in jail, sometimes for months, without a conviction? Did you know children are being given life without parole for crimes that don’t fit the punishment?

Many of us—Doug Baldwin, Chris Long, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Rodney McLeod and others—have spent time in cities and towns talking with these people about these issues and pushing these legislators to right these wrongs. What we’ve learned is that this is not a Democrat or a Republican issue. It’s an American issue—and an American problem. That is why we are moving forward with our efforts in the Coalition, to drive forward initiatives, campaigns and advocacy efforts to force legislators to make this a priority.

I wholeheartedly support and respect those who want to continue to protest. My hope and my focus now will be on getting the media coverage and attention on the tragedies we need to fix—those in our juvenile justice system, unjust bail policies, mass incarceration of young black men in this country and lack of employment opportunities in low-income communities—not whether I’m raising a fist before taking the field.

I want to thank the organizations who have helped the Players Coalition to date—the Fair Punishment Project, the ACLU, Center for American Progress, Community Legal Services, the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, our city police departments and the countless grass roots organizations and public defenders we’ve had the opportunity to get to know.

I wholeheartedly support and respect those who want to continue to protest. My hope and my focus now will be on getting the media coverage and attention on the tragedies we need to fix.

I also appreciate the fans who have supported our fight for equality and justice. I am especially appreciative for people like Stan Van Gundy who lent his support and helped pave the way to expand this movement to include the NBA.

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.

Philadelphia

Eagles

vs

Los Angeles

Rams

Homicides per 1,000 residents

0.18

Rams

Homicides per 1,000 residents

0.07

Violent crime per 1,000 residents

10.3

Rams

Violent crime per 1,000 residents

6.45

Marijuana decriminalization

Yes

Tie

Marijuana decriminalization

Yes

Police involved shootings

23

Eagles

Police involved shootings

89

People in jail per 100,000 residents

448

Rams

People in jail per 100,000 residents

173

% police of color /
% population of color

43.2/55

Rams

% police of color /
% population of color

64.6/71.5

People incarcerated pre-trial per 100,000 residents

134

Eagles

People incarcerated pre-trial per 100,000 residents

75

# juveniles sentenced to life without parole

307

Rams

# juveniles sentenced to life without parole

138

Upcoming Games:

 

Jan. 13 4:35 PM Atlanta

For more information on this data, see the Criminal Justice Season Explained page.

Note: Incarceration numbers are calculated by county, which in Philadelphia is the same borders as the city. Los Angeles County includes the city of Los Angeles and surrounding area.

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