McMullen: Jenkins was Blindsided for Leading
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — There is sizzle and there is steak.
When it comes to the social-justice reform and the NFL, Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin have been the ones doing the heavy lifting, a process that has reportedly ended with a nearly $100 million pledge by the league to help fund causes that are important to African American communities.
And the sizzle isn't happy about it.
San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, a close friend of the face of the movement to the general public, former Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas essentially pulled out of the coalition just as it ostensibly reached its goal by releasing identical messages on Twitter:
“With much thought and consideration, I’ve decided to officially withdraw my involvement in the Players Coalition founded by Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin," the dual statements read. "The Players Coalition was supposed to be formed as a group that represents NFL Athletes who have been silently protesting social injustices and racism. However, Malcolm and Anquan can no longer speak on our behalf as we don’t believe the coalition’s beliefs are in our best interests as a whole. We will continue to have dialogue with the league to find equitable solutions, but without Malcolm and Anquan as our representatives.”
Reid went even further in a phone conversation with ESPN’s Jim Trotter, blasting both the transparency of the process and essentially calling Jenkins a liar, claiming the Eagles' star promised the league that the controversial national anthem protests would stop once the agreement was in place.
“I feel like I’ve been misled," Reid told Trotter. "I won’t accuse Malcolm of directly lying to me because I don’t think he’s that type of guy. But I will say he’s misled us. And shoot, if that’s what lying is, then that’s what it is.”
That was obviously low-hanging fruit for Jenkins but to his credit, the veteran safety refused to take the bait and simply stayed on message, something he has consistently said is very important to the movement.
“In my mind, nothing has changed,” Jenkins said. “You got players that want to draw attention to issues in their communities and who want to make a significant impact on those issues. We’ve been trying to work through the league to try to find effective ways in doing that and we’ve been making progress in that direction.”
Maybe Reid has the wherewithal to get $150 million down the line but to this point, there has been no evidence he or Kaepernick want to take on the tireless work Jenkins and Boldin have put in to get to this outcome.
To be as blunt as Reid was with Trotter, this certainly looks like a coup in an attempt to garner control over a significant amount of money now that it's been allocated.
“When we agreed to be a part of the Players Coalition, we were under the impression that it would be our organization. We were under the impression that we would all have equal say in that organization," Reid claimed. “But we’ve come to find out that it’s actually Malcolm and Anquan’s organization. Nobody else really has a stake in the organization. Malcolm actually wants us to — he calls it invest, I call it donate — to the company to pay salaries for his staff. But again, we would have no equity in the organization.”
That's an interesting spin because what would Reid actually be donating if Jenkins and Boldin weren't involved? Simple math says even 100 percent of nothing is still nothing.
"It's disappointing because it catches us off guard," Jenkins said. "It forces us to answer questions about it, as players, although you have a lot of type-a personalities and alpha males who feel passionately about one thing ... It's often hard to get everyone to agree on one thing, but I think we've created productive dialogue among players that has been inclusive and we've been able to air out our desires and opinions."
More so Jenkins actually talked with Reid on Tuesday night and was blindsided by both the allegations and what could end up being a fatal fracture to the coalition.
“We were discussing some of the details of what the league has proposed," Jenkins explained. "I wanted some input. Really that was the biggest thing. I was asking for some input before I responded to some of the questions that the league had from us. So, yeah, this did catch me by a little bit of a surprise this morning.”
This is not the first sign of discord between what can be described as the Kaepernick camp and Jenkins' coalition. The former complained that he was not invited to a meeting the Players Coalition had with the NFL last month in New York City.
Jenkins denied that:
"I'm not sure whether Kaepernick wants to be involved," he claimed. "For me, the biggest thing is I saw an opportunity to create a group of players that could use their voice together and really make some change, and we still have that opportunity. We've been able to go to protests to now speaking with ownership about something that's never been in place before. We're proud of that. And we'll continue to work with whoever wants to be in that conversation."
At the end of the day kneeling is a gesture, as is Jenkins' raised-fist protest during the anthem, perhaps even noble or substantive acts that have raised awareness to some very sensitive issues for the African-American community. To his credit, Jenkins has turned those acts into something tangible -- the sizzle into the steak.
Reid and Co. want both, the money and the ability to keep protesting but that's not what compromise is and someone has to be the adult in the room on the players' side.
“I think we’re close to forming a partnership that we feel like can amplify the voices of the players,” Jenkins said. “This whole protest to me has been to draw awareness. If the league is proposing something out there that can replace that or amplify that voice, then I see no need in continuing the protests."
As for the disconnect and why players like Reid, Thomas, and by extension Kaepernick, can't see that, Jenkins was as frank and transparent as ever:
"I don't know," he said. "I don't know."
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen