Malik Jackson felt empowered to speak up during Eagles meeting

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Eagles defensive tackle Malik Jackson was one of several players to speak up in a team meeting last week about the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests throughout the country. 

Jackson, who joined the Eagles as a free agent last offseason, felt empowered to speak last Monday after Eagles owner Jeff Lurie and head coach Doug Pederson approached the conversation as people, not bosses. 

“[Pederson] said I’m going to take off my coach hat, I’m taking off my head coach hat, Mr. Lurie said I’m taking off my owner hat,” Jackson said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark on Friday. “We’re just having a conversation. When they did that, I just kind of felt empowered. They were speaking and speaking. I was like, ‘I’m going to say something.’”

Jackson, 30, said that while the talk is nice and he appreciates everyone listening, it’s time for action. 

Jackson said that he feels the league silenced players a few years ago when there were demonstrations during the national anthem. On Friday night, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement, admitting fault for not listening to players back then.

I just feel like when we tried that time, it got ambushed,” Jackson said. “We got called sons of bitches, we got talked about disrespecting the flag, that wasn’t our nature. That wasn’t our intent. I think players got alienated when they kept trying to stand up for that. … I thank Mr. Lurie and Coach Pederson for letting us have that talk. We just wanted to make sure that this time we want to keep talking about the injustices and not have to be stopped by some of the rhetoric of somebody else or what they think is about.

When asked about his specific message to the team, Jackson said he didn’t share his own experiences about being black in America. He said he didn’t feel the need because most of his teammates already understand that. The NFL is a majority black league. 

Jackson instead stressed the need for education about black history in the United States. He specifically mentioned The Black Wall Street and Huey P. Newton. 

“We only talk about Martin Luther King but we have so many other black leaders,” Jackson said. “I think education is the key. To educate and stop letting the country act like we just showed up here.” 

In addition to the full-team meeting last Monday, Jackson said the defensive line room, led by Matt Burke, also had an open forum to discuss matters of race. He appreciated Burke, Nathan Ollie and Jeremiah Washburn for creating a positive atmosphere in the defensive line room. 

And even though there were some emotional days last week, there were still football matters. Jackson said he is able to compartmentalize. 

“This is my job. You have to separate job and life and wants and needs,” Jackson said. “When it’s my job, it’s my job. I understand I’m coming off a year pretty much redshirting last year, so I understand for me to do to anything but pay attention to football and do what I need to do, it would be very unproductive and very counterproductive and probably detrimental to my career. I take my football very seriously.”

After missing most of last season with a foot injury, Jackson was hoping to use OTAs to get comfortable with his foot so he’d be full-go come training camp. With the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual offseason, that hasn’t happened. Now Jackson is just looking forward to getting back together with his teammates for the start of training camp, hopefully in late July. 

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