I’m not in the business of calling out my fellow colleagues, it’s just not a thing I pride myself or my career on ever doing.
The journalism community in Philadelphia is so small and tight knit, you’re constantly running into people that you know – or don’t know – who know you, and to me, reputation in this business has always been paramount.
But I have a hard time with a recent column on Philly.com written by Solomon Jones, called The problem with Malcolm Jenkins’ activism: It cost him nothing criticizing Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins for, as Jones put it, being perceived as "The Acceptable Negro," in Jenkins’ ongoing fight for criminal justice reform.
The sentiment was that because Jenkins lost nothing in his campaign for equality, unlike his counterparts in Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid and most notably crusade leader in former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, that Jenkins isn’t as down for the cause and comes off as the malleable black personality that’s acceptable by wealthy white NFL owners and executives.
The column was penned in the aftermath of the Eagles 21-17 loss to the Panthers on Sunday in which Reid told reporters postgame that he thought Jenkins was a “sellout,” in his continuance of protests and instead has taken an off-camera stand (pun intended) in the fight for criminal justice reform and the treatment of Black and Brown people at the hands of police.
Reid and Jenkins have had an ongoing feud since the dissolve of what was known as the Players Coalition, a group comprised of African-American NFL players from around the League who spoke on behalf of players incensed over the systemic oppression and the overall perception of the Black and Brown person in America, mainly in the eyes of police. But due to more infighting with each other than against whom they felt was the oppressor, the coalition dissolved and members have taken to the fight on their own – behind the scenes.
It’s a long, dramatic convoluted story, but it’s one that should be noted that during its run, the players were able to get NFL owners to shuffle $100 million in charitable funds into causes that supported the coalition’s mission. This for some within the movement wasn’t enough as the word “shuffled” just meant owners moved the money from existing charities into this pot, not having a dime come from their pockets.
Why that infuriated members of the group is beyond me, because in my opinion, who cares where $100 million comes from as long it’s not to any detriment and is going into your cause.
That’s just some background for on the Reid-Jenkins saga, but back to Solomon’s column.
The idea that because Jenkins hasn’t “missed an NFL paycheck” in his crusade while players like Reid and Kaepernick, teammates and brothers in Kaepernick’s fight while both played for the San Francisco 49ers, lost jobs and money doesn’t make Jenkins down enough is frankly a stupid point.
This idea that losing everything makes the fight more authentic is mind-boggling.
Let’s not forget here that Reid hasn't missed a season in the league and is back to making millions with his newfound team in the Panthers. And although an exact dollar figure has never been named, as the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary campaign, Kaepernick’s multimillion dollar behind-the-scenes deal with the sportswear company ensured he’ll never have to take another snap in his life if he doesn’t want to.
He lost his career, an end result I personally will always admire his courage for, but in taking said stance he gained arguably more than he would’ve ever amassed from an NFL paycheck. Yeah, I’m going out on a limb to say that Colin Kaepernick’s fight for equality – and his financial stability – are both in the black.
Also, Jones’ comparisons of historic infighting and infiltration at the hands of Whites towards Black and Brown causes is also unfair. Portraying Malcolm Jenkins to Booker T. Washington teaching Blacks how to do hard labor jobs is like comparing him to Samuel L. Jackson’s character in “Django: Unchained.”
I don’t know Malcolm Jenkins, but I do know this is a man who could’ve been quiet and collected his NFL paycheck and watched quietly like the majority of NFL players did as the events that transpired over a few seasons unfolded.
He did the exact opposite.
He’s been an outspoken advocate, he was a part of a coalition that raised awareness and forced the hands of a bunch of wealthy white men to listen and act. He’s still doing work behind the scenes and he’s already said after raising his fist for the final time during a preseason game that an on-camera stance has run its course.
Doing the work behind the scenes is what’s vitally important.
Too often, in the age of social media and instant gratification, where everyone feels their opinion matters, we are quick to sit on high horses and judge those in the fields actually doing the laborious work. I think before we decide to comment, pause just a second and see how that looks.