Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and tight end Zach Ertz have earned a deeper respect from their African American teammates by speaking out and committing to becoming agents of change in the fight for racial equality.
Defensive backs Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod and Will Parks are among the Eagles players who have noted how Wentz and Ertz have stepped up in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement recently via strong statements posted on social media as well as being supportive voices in virtual team meetings.
The plunge by Wentz and Ertz into the Black Lives Matter movement came rather unexpectedly and with societal tensions at a fever pitch.
In late May, three days after the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, Wentz released a statement on social media acknowledging "institutional racism" in the country, saying it "breaks my heart and needs to stop."
A short time later, Ertz and his wife, Julie, a member of the National Women's Soccer League, put out a joint post expressing empathy for the "pain and hurt the African American community has endured by another human" and regret "that you feel that you are alone in this situation," while dedicating themselves to learning how they can help.
A similar tone was struck by Wentz and Ertz during a "powerful" team meeting initiated by Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie in early June.
"Carson being from North Dakota, he grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. He [said] he doesn't understand what's going on right now. He sees the wrongful doing but he doesn't understand," Mills said. "But he's also willing to learn and get more knowledge about it from his Black teammates who have been a part of this."
Added McLeod: "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. 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."
Those actions are starting to stack up.
Wentz has been reaching out to teammates to further his education as well as inquire about ways he can help -- "He's actually been hounding me to get on a call," McLeod joked -- while using his social media platform to promote a change in mindset when it comes to race relations.
"It shows you that we have a true leader back there with [No.] 11," Parks said. "Just to open up and express the way that he felt about it and how he wanted to help and how he wanted to create change and do it now, it speaks for itself. It's not too many times when you have a quarterback, a guy still young in the league like myself, to express his feelings and want to help. That's awesome. That's a great leader."
Wentz and Ertz were among those who put their signatures on a letter to Congress supporting a bill to end qualified immunity, which makes it difficult to sue police officers for brutality.
Black Lives Matter: The time to act is now
Athletes from all backgrounds come together to demand action for racial justice and equality.
Zach and Julie Ertz appeared in New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins' video, unveiled during Sunday night's broadcast of the ESPYS, urging athletes, coaches and media "to do our part to make this country better," and have been using their foundation to promote social justice.
Getting high-profile quarterbacks to voice their support has been a longtime wish for many who have supported this cause long before now. Count former Eagles defensive end Chris Long among them.
"I'm prouder of Carson Wentz right now than I ever was watching him make an unbelievable throw or play through an injury or seeing him do various charitable initiatives," Long said. "This is the hardest thing he's done. And it shouldn't be. It should be more normal. But with the help of Carson Wentz, it won't be so hard when the next guy talks and the next guy speaks his mind."