Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod called the lack of support by some team owners in respect to the Black Lives Matter movement “sad and disheartening” and expressed disappointment that the NFL’s advocacy campaign hasn’t matched the NBA’s in terms of organization and strength.
“The NBA, I think they had a tight organization and you saw that and you still see it. I think that’s the most upsetting part. Not saying that we haven’t done anything, I would just like to see more be done,” McLeod told ESPN.
“From start to finish … I don’t think [the NBA] ever lost sight of the players’ mission at hand and what they wanted to focus on, from the shirts to commercials being ran to the courts [reading] ‘Black Lives Matter,’ it’s in your face and it’s hard to miss,” McLeod said. “That’s where I think I’m coming from — let’s always have it on people’s minds that, ‘Hey, this game is important, we love it, but at the end of the day we’re human beings and we’ve chosen to fight this fight.’ And the league, you’ve stepped up and spoke out on it and you decided that you would like to stand alongside us, so let’s make it happen.”
The NFL, McLeod noted, has taken steps to throw support behind the movement. In June, the league revealed plans to increase its social justice footprint by pledging to donate $250 million over a 10-year period. They launched the season-long “It Takes All of Us” campaign to help bring awareness to social injustice. End zones across the league have the phrases “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” stenciled in. “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing,” traditionally known as the Black national anthem, was performed before every Week 1 NFL game.
The level of messaging and coordination has fallen short relative to the NBA, however, McLeod argues. And while some owners, such as the Eagles’ Jeffrey Lurie, have spoken out in support of the players, those actions have not been mimicked leaguewide.
“I’m not sure if I’ve seen the same from other owners and it’s sad and disheartening to see and I’m sure other players around the league feel the same,” McLeod said.
“In passing, it’s a topic of conversation [with other players] how one team or organization does a lot more than others. Rightfully so, players would like to speak out as much as others but [are] fearful of what’s the price for that and how that will affect them.”
Added Eagles defensive tackle Malik Jackson: “As an African American man, I think I’d like to see more people come out from behind the NFL shield and speak up individually. That would mean a lot to me. To have these owners use their lobbyists [to] push this 1619 Project, push more things for us, I think that would be cool. But it’s hard to tell people what to do when they’re signing your checks. So I just try to stay in my lane and do what I can and if I’m doing something, I just try to ask the media team here to help me and they do a very good job of that.”
McLeod, like Jackson, is part of the Eagles’ social justice committee, and has taken on a greater leadership role on the social activism front since safety Malcolm Jenkins left for the New Orleans Saints in free agency. McLeod and his wife, Erika, recently launched an initiative through their foundation called Game Changers, which is aimed at empowering the youth in Philadelphia through education with a focus on providing Black history curriculum in schools. His foundation is also encouraging voter registration and will provide transportation to voting stations on Election Day for citizens who need it in North Philadelphia.
He would like to see greater efforts by the league, and says he believes the best way to make that happen is by players having a unified voice.
“I think the best way to do it is for us to come together as players and try to have dialogue because there are strength in numbers,” he said. “It’s one thing if two individuals go and speak on our behalf, but if … 53 men on each team come together and say, ‘Hey, this is what we want to see done,’ I think we’re able to accomplish that. I don’t know if that happens next week or in the next couple weeks, but I think it will grab their attention and they’ll be willing to listen and hear what we want to do.”