Jenkins vs. Reid is About Using Anger, Not Letting it Consume You
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Leaders are leaders for a reason and Malcolm Jenkins again exemplified that on Wednesday, days after a high-profile dustup with Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid.
Ostensibly fighting for the same things, namely systemic oppression against African-Americans, Reid went scorched earth against Jenkins, one of the leaders on the NFL Players Coalition, which has lobbied the league owners successfully to pledge just under $100 million of support to causes the players feel passionate about.
At that point, Reid, a good friend of Colin Kaepernick, went in a different direction, ultimately describing the coalition as an "NFL-funded subversion group" when he signed with the Panthers, something he doubled-down on after Carolina's stunning 21-17 comeback win over the Eagles by calling Jenkins “a sellout" and “a neo-colonialist.”
The big issue seems to be Kaepernick, who many believe has been blackballed by the league.
“We believe a lot of players should’ve stepped up for Colin (Kaepernick),” Reid said. “I believe Malcolm capitalized on the situation. He co-opted the movement that was started by Colin to get his organization funded. It’s cowardly. He sold us out.”
Other than taking the baton from Kaepernick and leveraging his platform with the league while generating results for the causes both support, it's unclear what Reid means when he called Jenkins a sellout, other than the misguided theory by some that the Pro Bowl safety hasn't suffered enough for his activism.
While Reid was unemployed for far too long, according to some, and Kaepernick remains without a job, something Jenkins raises his eyebrows over to this day, that's probably not the case if they were producing at the same level as Jenkins. Conversely, if Jenkins' performance did decline you shouldn't be naive enough to believe that he wouldn't have faced the same consequences as Reid and Kaepernick.
"While our main focus is always on the community and those systemic oppressions, how we can leverage our relationships, our access, and resources to help people in everyday communities, there is still a responsibility to speak out on Colin Kaepernick, who started this movement and still doesn't have a job," Jenkins said. "I wholeheartedly believe he is being blackballed, to speak out in support of Eric Reid, who put his job on the line to fight for those who didn't have a voice.
"I have always maintained every chance I get to say, Colin Kaepernick started this, Eric Reid deserves a job, Colin Kaepernick deserves a job. I can turn on the tape this week and our opponent and see Colin Kaepernick deserves a job."
For Jenkins, this is far bigger than individual players, though.
"At the end of the day, when I started this, my personal journey to help my own communities, it was never about the NFL or anybody having a job in the NFL," he explained. "It was about people -- everyday citizens where I come from, where I live in Philly, and all across this country. And so at the end of the day, my decisions will always be about people."
Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, another top-tier player who has been outspoken over social justice issues and remains employed, compared the acrimony to two cars -- a Ferrari and a Suburban -- heading to the same destination.
"Fighting each other is not the answer," the thoughtful Bennett explained. "When you show violence is the answer, you give young kids a bad example. To be able to have a conversation and move forward in a positive manner is where we really want things."
Problem with Bennett's assessment is Jenkins has the GPS on and Reid took the wrong exit.
While Reid's verbal bombs of "sellout" and "neo-colonialist" generated the headlines, it was another statement after last week's game that too many missed which revealed the disconnect.
"I think it was James Baldwin that said, ‘To be black in America and to be relatively conscious is to be in a constant state of anger.’ I’m in a constant state of anger,” Reid admitted.
Many, including Nelson Mandela, have offered a differed thesis: "Anger (or resentment) is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die."
In life, you either work with the cards your dealt or fold.
Jenkins has been very angry at times but uses that as fuel to work toward solutions while Reid's anger consumes him into an inability to get out of his own way.
The good news for Reid is no matter how many wrong turns he makes along the way Jenkins will be there to embrace him when he finally finds that destination.
"I was always taught by my parents, things that happen within the family stay within the family," Jenkins explained. "Nobody wins when you see bickering or fighting or going back and forth. So, I always try and maintain positive vibes whenever I'm speaking about anybody who I know is passionate about their work.
"We can disagree on philosophy, we can disagree on tactics and all of that, but if I know where your heart is and I know that you're about the people, then never would I publicly bash what you're doing, because that it's detrimental to the movement."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen