PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod anticipates he will protest social injustice during the playing of the national anthem throughout the 2020 NFL season, and that the majority of his team will join him.
"I think I will. I haven't decided on what that looks like, but I think I will in some capacity," McLeod told ESPN.
"I believe [most of the team will join me]. I think it is important for us to continue this and not let this pass us by. Let's take the right steps, and that means committing ourselves to the 2020 season and further until we get change."
Safety Rodney McLeod believes he and the majority of the Eagles team will demonstrate for social justice pregame in 2020. pic.twitter.com/TpmZOUcgtV— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) June 12, 2020
Philadelphia has been an NFL hub for social activism the past several seasons, led by Players Coalition co-founder Malcolm Jenkins. McLeod, who protested alongside Jenkins and Chris Long previously while being active in the community, is increasing his leadership role with Jenkins now with the New Orleans Saints. He was one of several prominent voices to speak out during a team meeting on race relations last week -- a session initiated by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie amid nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
Lurie and some team leaders are scheduled to meet next week, McLeod said, to begin constructing an action plan toward effecting change as a team.
"We're making steps to take action as a team, to show unity and to exemplify what that looks like. I think the Philadelphia Eagles have always done a good job of that at showing brotherhood and togetherness," he said.
McLeod, 29, lauded teammates Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz for releasing statements showing support for the African American community and acknowledging institutional racism, and kicker Jake Elliott for joining McLeod on the streets of Philadelphia recently to see the Black Lives Matter movement up close. Wentz and Ertz also spoke during the Eagles' team meeting last week.
"One thing that resonated with me that Zach said was, 'It's no longer an excuse to say that I am uninformed or I don't know much about the social injustice that [exists] for a lot of you guys on the team,'" McLeod said. "'And I now have made it a priority of mine and I am committed to fighting and standing next to you and to take action, and not just temporarily but for the entirety.' A similar message was given by Carson.
"I respect those guys for taking the time to want to learn but to also listen and then on top of that now take action regardless of the backlash they might get from people in the world."
Like Jenkins, McLeod believes a key to moving forward harmoniously is for the NFL to address how it handled the situation with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"He was one of the first to draw attention to what we're speaking on and talking about right now: police brutality and systemic racism. He explained himself many a times and still his voice was not heard, and then after a while it was forced into silence, which is sad to see," McLeod said, "because maybe if we continued advocating for a lot of these issues, would George Floyd still be alive? We don't know how much progress we could have made.
"Like many people have said, the league in a way kind of let us down as players. With the league being represented by 75% African American males, you have to listen to what we're saying and help us and stand alongside us, be an ally. I think it's important to acknowledge Kaepernick and his efforts because he did sacrifice. My hat goes off to him and I'm hoping they do something. They have to say his name in all of this because he started this movement for all us players."