Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins has message for media after Trump controversy: 'YOU AREN'T LISTENING'
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins was done talking about President Trump and the White House.
On Wednesday, a day after their Super Bowl visit to the White House was canceled, he didn’t say a single word about it.
Instead, Jenkins, the socially conscious co-founder of the Players Coalition, met questions from a larger-than-normal media contingent with a series of poster boards with messages handwritten in black magic marker. Some of the cards detailed charitable efforts of other players, while some stated facts about the criminal justice system Jenkins is so passionate about reforming.
One reminded reporters and anyone watching that “ANY GIVEN NIGHT 500,000 SIT IN JAIL. CONVICTED? NO. TOO POOR? YES.”
A second read, “DEVIN MCCOURTY, DURON HARMON, MATT SLATER AND JOHNSON BADEMOSI LOBBIED TO RAISE THE AGE FROM 7 TO 12 ENTERING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM,” a nod to Patriots players affiliated with the Coalition.
Another lauded the efforts of other NFL players Ben Watson and Demario Davis, who “HELPED PUSH THROUGH LA HOUSE BILL 265 RESTORING VOTING RIGHTS.”
Jenkins held up another that said, "COLIN KAEPERNICK GAVE $1 MILLION TO CHARITY,” and another, “CHRIS LONG GAVE HIS ENTIRE YEAR’S SALARY TO EDUCATIONAL INITIATIVES.
The questions kept coming, and Jenkins, silent, raised one last sign, “YOU AREN’T LISTENING.” He then stacked up his cards and walked off in silence.
The Eagles were available Wednesday for the first time since President Trump uninvited them to the White House Monday night. They were supposed to visit Tuesday afternoon, but according to reports, so few players were going to attend that Trump called the whole thing off.
The White House accused the Eagles of pulling a political stunt, reportedly informing the administration that more than 80 players would attend last week, but at a late hour, the team was expected to send fewer than 10 players. On Wednesday, many players including Zach Ertz, who had planned to go, did not say whether they were going or not. It seemed like the team was circling the wagons, refusing to continue a culture war with the White House.
“That's fine. I’m not discussing it. It's over,” coach Doug Pederson said. “What you've seen and what you've heard is enough. I'm not going to stand here and discuss it, because we've got two OTA practices, I've got a mandatory camp next week, and I'm focused on that.”
Pederson declined to answer how many people were going to actually travel to the White House. The administration accused the Eagles of pulling a political stunt, submitting more than 80 names last week but then changing it at the last minute to inform the White House far fewer would actually be attending. Published reports indicate fewer than 10 were actually going to show up. He did not get into the logistics Wednesday.
“I was looking forward to going down, obviously,” Pederson said. “We did something last season that is very special. It's a milestone here in the city of Philadelphia, our organization, and I was looking forward to going down and being recognized as world champions. It is what it is. We're here today, got an OTA practice. I’m focused on these next couple of days, getting through next week and on to training camp. So, that's where we're at.”
Players like Long seemed to prefer to do his talking on Twitter.
“I was never going anyways,” Long said, adding, “I have like three years of quotes with Donald Trump, so I’m not going to keep going down that road, respectfully. I’m on to mini-camp.”
“I’ve got a Twitter feed,” he said. “I’ve been talking about this for two years. To me, not going to the White House had nothing to do with the anthem. I said I wasn’t going to the White House a long time ago … at the end of the day, it made no difference to me.”
Jason Kelce, the center who donned a full Mummers costume at the Super Bowl parade in February and proclaimed “No one likes us, we don’t care!” was diplomatic Wednesday when he was asked if he was disappointed he didn’t get to visit the White House.
“I think it’s a little disappointing right now that we are so divided as a country,” he said. “That’s the bigger disappointment. It feels like people stick in their little bubbles and they don’t open their minds to other viewpoints. That’s disappointing. But I can tell you this, winning a Super Bowl, the objective is not to win a Super Bowl to go to the White House.”
Pederson said he did not feel compelled to discuss the situation with players and he did not feel the political rift would become a distraction for the defending champs. If anything, being in the crosshairs of a national media storm, which the Eagles may have helped to create by lodging a team-wide protest of the president, seems to have galvanized the defending Super Bowl champs.
Pederson was even asked for a message of “guidance” to the people of Philadelphia after the White House accused the Eagles of abandoning their fans by not showing up in Washington.
“We've got the greatest fans in the National Football League,” Pederson said. “When we had that parade back in February, our fans – our true fans – they're beside us. We're beside them. Love everything about the people that come and watch us, support us, whether it's in training camp or in the stadium. I can't say enough good things about what our fans have done for us. The support, the love we've felt all offseason, and we continue to feel.”
Pederson, who clearly would prefer to stick to sports on days like this, was asked if championship teams should be invited to the White House at all, no matter who is president.
“I'm not going to speak for other teams,” Pederson said. “I just know that I was looking forward to it. Listen, you win a world championship or an NCAA title or anything championship and you want to be recognized that way, I think it's great. But, again, I'm not going to speak for other teams. I was looking forward to it.”
Strangely, while Pederson and Eagles players were front and center Wednesday, where was owner Jeff Lurie? Other than a bland statement that said virtually nothing after the trip was cancelled, Lurie has been silent, which, frankly, is strange.
Lurie is supposed to be so socially conscious, a guy who encourages his players to speak out and devote time to meaningful issues. The left-leaning owner, who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 while many NFL owners backed Trump, is also the same guy who railed against the president in a league meeting to discuss the culture war between the White House and the NFL last year over anthem protests.
Lurie reportedly called it “one (expletive) disastrous presidency.”
“Another fact I want to throw out there: Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump,” Lurie said on a recording of the meeting published by the New York Times. “Yes, there are some. There are some players who do, too.”
But now, with the president taking aim at his football team, Lurie has remained silent.
Unlike Jenkins, he had no signs to hold up.