Silent protest spreads throughout the Eagles locker room
Eagles' safety Malcolm Jenkins holds up signs at his silent press conference Wednesday. | Mike Garafolo / NFL

Silence can be a powerful weapon.

It was one strategically used by Eagles’ safety Malcolm Jenkins in response to the Super Bowl champions’ dis-invitation to the the White House.

A day after the Eagles were snubbed by Donald Trump, Jenkins held up about a dozen hand-written signs Wednesday, standing silently as reporters lobbed question after question.

Some of his signs read:

– “You aren’t listening”

– “More than 60% of people in prison are people of color”

– “Any given night 500,000 sit in jail. Convicted? No. Too Poor? Yes #EndCashBail”

– “Chris Long gave his entire year’s salary to educational initiatives”

– “Colin Kaepernick gave $1 million to charity”

– “Devin McCourty Duron Harmon, Matt Slater and Johnson Bademosi lobbied to raise the age from 7 to 12 entering the criminal justice system”

– “In 2018 439 people shot and killed by police (thus far)”

Jenkins, a player activist and leader on the players’ committee working with the NFL to establish social justice initiatives, raised his fist in protest during the national anthem last season, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s take a knee anthem protest against racism and police brutality, and made it known early on that he would not visit the White House.

Jenkins’s silence spread throughout the locker room, and around 75 reporters left that day with many unanswered questions. Players refused to go into detail about conversations regarding the White House trip or their personal thoughts on Trump.

“I have, like, three years of quotes about me and Donald Trump,” said defensive end Chris Long. “I’m not going to keep going down that road, respectfully. I’m on to minicamp.”

A few veteran Eagles—offensive linemen Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks and tight end Zach Ertz—who spoke briefly with reports did not confirm whether they had planned to visit the White House before the trip was canceled.

“I’m not going to touch on it,” said Kelce. “At this point, it doesn’t matter.”

The press conference marked the first day players spoke to the media since White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there was a “lack of good faith from the Eagles during discussions leading up to the event” and accused the team of pulling a “political stunt” by telling the White House only a small number of players would be attending.

Brooks said that there had been talks about sending a small committee to the White House but “nothing was set in stone.”

“It’s not a stunt or anything like that,” said Brooks.

The only political stunt was the one pulled by Trump, and it was an utter failure, similar to his administration.

Following the event, Jenkins tweeted images of some of the signs he held up. | via Twitter

According to a source who spoke to ESPN, the team had been discussing for weeks how to best approach the trip and make it an experience all players could agree on and share. A large group of players—including most of the Black players—decided not to go in the end.

After canceling the visit, the White House released a statement saying that the Eagles had “decided to abandon their fans.”

“I think our fans know good and well how we feel about them,” Kelce said. “We are a lot closer knit than most other cities are with their teams.”

While fans may wonder if not visiting the White House will become a trend during Trump’s administration, Long said, “Hopefully we wont have to make decisions like that in a couple of years…The players didn’t create this division.”

Eagles players—union members—said this issue isn’t a dividing force for the team because they are already unified.

“The objective wasn’t to win the Super Bowl so we could go to the White House,” said Kelce.

Now let’s wait and see how the White House will spin this.


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.