Pro Bowler for the Philadelphia Eagles visits D.C. politicians to talk criminal justice reform.
Malcolm Jenkins, a Pro Bowler for the Philadelphia Eagles, has joined a growing group of athletes advocating for social justice and racial equality. Jenkins started with a small but powerful gesture – raising his fist during the national anthem. Soon after, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers about ongoing criminal justice reform efforts. Jenkins has met with Philadelphia’s Caucus of Working Educators to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement. Just recently, he did a ride-along with a Philadelphia police officer to get a firsthand look at the reality of working in law enforcement.
Jenkins’ progression from silent protest to policy advocacy is an excellent example of how one individual can make waves of change. He is realizing his unique power and influence as a professional athlete to gain a seat at the table. We often talk about pro athletes having a platform and resources (i.e. money, partners, fans, and followers) which they can use to advance a cause. But we tend to overlook another piece of the puzzle: athletes have access. They have relatively easy access to powerful people and institutions that have major impact on policy reform. Simply having a seat at the table can be an invaluable resource, and pro athletes will almost always be granted a seat if they ask. Jenkins explained that his trip to D.C. made him realize how he was “able to get meetings that the people who are actually doing work on the ground probably can’t get.” The real life experience from his ride-along, coupled with the perspective he gained from D.C. lawmakers, has given Jenkins a more complete picture of police brutality in our country. He is to be commended for making an effort to hear both sides of the story and taking the time to learn the state of community-police relations in America, instead of taking a hardline stance before knowing all the facts.
Jenkins reflected on his ride-along, explaining that police brutality is “a symptom of the justice system they’re on the front lines of….They act in accordance with the policies and laws that govern them. So, when…we don’t see any kind of accountability or repercussions for people losing their lives…it’s because the policies that [police are] governed by allows it.” Going forward, Jenkins is intent on working towards treating the underlying causes of racial divides instead of the symptoms. His mission is to bring about real reform to police training and, ultimately, the criminal justice system.
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