The NFL tried to leak out the new policy by strategically framing it as a compromise, when it wasn’t. The NFLPA was angered by it. New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson broke ranks not long after the vote, which was hailed by commissioner Roger Goodell as unanimous among the teams, saying he’d pay fines for any player who wanted to kneel during the anthem and bring awareness to social issues.
And Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the most prominent voices in the effort to bring attention to social issues like racial inequality, said the new policy was bad for everyone.
Jenkins, one of the members of the Players Coalition that met with the NFL on social issues, made a statement that said the NFL owners infringed on “the players’ constitutional rights to express themselves.”
It’s a strong statement that should be a clear signal: Just because the NFL wants the issue gone after enacting a new policy doesn’t mean it will be.
Chris Long, Jenkins’ teammate on the Eagles, also made a statement that said the NFL was simply concerned about President Donald Trump “turning his base against a corporation” and the league fell short on the entire issue.
Jenkins’ comment that he will not let the policy silence him is curious. While the start of the season is a long way off and perhaps he hasn’t even thought about what he will do during the anthem, the NFL’s policy might not keep everyone from kneeling or demonstrating in some way.
Perhaps Jenkins, by saying he’d continue fighting, just meant he’d use other avenues to bring attention to social issues. But Jenkins wasn’t the only player who kneeled or raised a fist during the anthem, and it’s fair to wonder if everyone who did will be content to simply sit in the locker room during the anthem, which the policy says they can.
And if Jenkins or anyone else doesn’t follow the policy, and forces the NFL to fine teams whose players are trying to bring attention to problems like police brutality and equal opportunities in education, the controversy will continue to grow.
Malcolm Jenkins through his career
Malcolm Jenkins through his career
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 25: Eagles Safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) celebrates after the Eagles recovered a fumble in the second half during the game between the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles on December 25, 2017 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, 0H - SEPTEMBER 16: Malcolm Jenkins #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes gets ready to move at the snap during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats on September 16, 2006 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo By Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - OCTOBER 27: Wide receiver Ray Small #4, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins #2, and wide receiver Brian Hartline #9 of the Ohio State Buckeyes sing their alma mater after the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on October 27, 2007 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Ohio State won 37-17. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - 2009: Malcolm Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by NFL Photos)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 31: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates a play during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Louisiana Superdome on October 31, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 2: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints warms up before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Buccaneers defeated the Saints 23-13. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 03: NFL player Malcolm Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints attends Super Bowl Gospel Celebration 2012 at Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University on February 3, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Super Bowl)
26 July 2014: Malcolm Jenkins (27) Eagles Defensive Back takes to the field during the Philadelphia Eagles training camp at NovaCare Training Complex in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles encourages the crowd to get loud against the Buffalo Bills on December 13, 2015 at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles exits the field after the game between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: NFL player Malcolm Jenkins (R) and Morrisa Jenkins attend the Sports Illustrated Experience Friday Night Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 09: Ron Brooks #33 of the Philadelphia Eagles and Malcolm Jenkins #27 raise their fists during the National Anthem prior to the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 9, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles holds up his fist during the national anthem prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Vikings 21-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 28: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles smiles while warming up before taking on the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field on November 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 02: Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins visits the SiriusXM set at Super Bowl 51 Radio Row at the George R. Brown Convention Center on February 2, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 19: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium on November 19, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 21: Corey Graham #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles is congratulated by his teammate Malcolm Jenkins #27 after getting an interception during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 21: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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The NFL hasn’t solved everything
A few times during the press conference announcing the anthem policy change Wednesday, owners talked about the focus going back to football in 2018. Surely that’s their ultimate goal. The anthem issue overshadowed the game in many ways, and was divisive among its audience, team owners and players. If the NFL could flip a switch and make the entire story disappear, they would happily do so.
But it’s clear in the immediate aftermath of the policy passing that it was not the unanimous “compromise” the NFL was trying to push on us. NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith fired off a series of tweets criticizing the decision.
Management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so.