Next week the Philadelphia Eagles are going to the Super Bowl, and while some of us already have plans to cheer them on from our living rooms, there is another opportunity for us to show them our support. Eagles players and coach Jeffrey Lurie are waging a battle to ensure criminal justice reform and bringing an end to racial inequality. These issues are at the heart of much of our community trauma, and we need to uplift the work of the Eagles to help our communities heal.
The New York Times article "In busy year, Jenkins keeps up fight" by Ken Belson, we meet Malcolm Jenkins who is balancing fatherhood, NFL stardom, leading a foundation, and his commitment to serve as a social justice warrior. As part of the Players Coalition, Jenkins is meeting "with leaders of police departments, public defenders, bail officers and lawmakers. They have visited prisons and courts to learn about problems, and pushed for legislation to address them." While working to address system issues, Jenkins also values helping individuals build self-efficacy. "His foundation, which provides leadership and life skills to young people in underserved communities, had expanded to four states." (Benson, NY Times)
Jenkins, showing a skill for partnership building, is reaching out to collaborate with other justice-focused groups. Belson highlighted these two compelling examples:
"Holly Harris, the executive director of the Justice Action Network, enlisted Jenkins to write a letter of support for a program in Ohio that diverts nonviolent drug offenders from prison to community treatment programs. In no time, Jenkins, who played at Ohio State, sent a letter to legislators. Harris said the letter helped save the program.
Bill Cobb, the deputy director of the A.C.L.U. Campaign for Smart Justice, which tries to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system, took Jenkins and other players to Graterford Prison, in Collegeville, Pa., about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, to talk with officers and inmates, including juveniles who received life sentences. Jenkins recorded a video and wrote an op-ed column to publicize Cobb’s program. He gave Super Bowl tickets to a man who was released from the prison after serving 30 years of a life term, which he received as a 15-year-old." (Benson, NY Times)
Jenkins says his coach, Jeffrey Lurie, shares a commitment to this work. "Among N.F.L. owners, Lurie is uniquely sympathetic to what the Players Coalition has been trying to achieve. Long before he bought the Eagles, he earned a doctoral degree in social policy and lectured on topics like incarceration rates. In the lobby at the Eagles’ training facility, there are large photos of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Jonas Salk, rather than sepia-tone images of the team’s best former players." (Benson, NY Times)
I'm impressed by Jenkins, his unique voice, his leadership, his resolve, and his sacrifices. He's using his platform as a national football star to ensure our nation keeps our eye on the bigger "eagle" the one that symbolizes freedom and prosperity for all. Who doesn't want to jump to their feet and cheer for that?