Stick to Sports?...Naw, I’m Good

My Eagles teammates and I were active in our community all year, and it didn't stop us from winning the Super Bowl. It's time to stop looking at athletes as one-dimensional.
February 28, 2018, 2:17pm
Courier-Post-USA Today Network

Living in Philadelphia, you learn to temper your expectations when it comes to sports. As a Philadelphia fan, you love your team, you enjoy the ride of each season, but you are anxiously awaiting the inevitable turn of events that will leave you thoroughly disappointed.

All season long you could feel the excitement building as we racked up win after win. We were having fun, the city was having fun, but no one wanted to look further than the next game, hoping not to jinx the thrill. Determined to stay in the moment and enjoy the ride, fans shot down any talk of a Super Bowl, secretly waiting for something to go terribly wrong… and BOOM! It happened. We lost our starting quarterback Carson Wentz, the likely NFL MVP, to a season-ending ACL injury.

Lucky for us, that negativity didn’t reflect what we players were thinking inside the locker room. We were determined to press forward, to play harder, and to have more fun than anyone else as we pursued the dream of being the first team to bring the Lombardi Trophy to the City of Brotherly Love. We had come too far to just quit like that and our fans waited too long to just fold on this opportunity. We knew very well what a championship would mean to the city. This blue collar town has given unwavering passion, love, and support to its beloved Eagles. Philadelphians have waited generations to be rewarded for their loyalty, and rewarded they were—we won!! There was an epic parade, with people perched on every tree, light pole, and rooftop, and of course Jason Kelce gave one of the most memorable speeches in Philadelphia’s long history.

The taste of victory was extra sweet considering the journey that we took to get here, not only on the field but off of it as well. In an environment that has been hostile toward the growing wave of athletes who speak out about the world they see around them, this team stood firm. Chris Long, Torrey Smith, Rodney McLeod, myself, and others consistently made it a point to give our time, money, and attention to the societal problems plaguing communities across the country as well as our community right here in Philadelphia.

That’s why this year in Philly was so special for me. Our fan base loved what we were doing. They loved that the same players they loyally supported every Sunday were able to step off the field and fight for their rights to be treated fairly and equally. The more we won, the more mics that were placed in front of us, the louder we spoke. Conversations about making our communities better and stronger through criminal justice reform, educational equality for our youth, and building more trust with police infiltrated our interviews, our locker room, and even our team meetings.

What people were trying to call a “distraction” was only making this team closer, and hopefully setting an example for other teams to follow. I hope people can now understand that we are an example that athletes have more to offer this world than what they do on a court or a field. We are often the best examples of teamwork, solidarity, community, and progress. In sports, we get paired with other men from every background you can think of and are asked to work together with one goal in mind: to win! We handle conflict, adversity, success, and failure every day! We sacrifice for the greater good constantly, with the big picture in mind.

The Philadelphia Eagles got the opportunity to be that example on the biggest stage in sports—the Super Bowl!—and I hope amidst the nail-biting game, the “Philly Special,” and all the confetti that people didn’t miss that being active in, and actually caring about, your community is not a “distraction.”

We are all citizens of the same community, facing the same problems. Your job doesn’t define you, and mine doesn’t define me.

Of course, some people, did just that. Not even a month later we heard the ridiculous rhetoric that LeBron James should “shut up and dribble” and not comment on things that are happening in the country that he lives, loves, and pays a boat load of taxes in. I refrained from commenting on this until now. I decided not to waste my 280 characters on something so ridiculous, because that is what they want you to do.

For some, it’s scary to see athletes with so much influence and reach start to leverage that influence in society. The immediate reaction by those who disagree with an athlete is to try to discredit them and box them in as a “dumb jock” who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. When in all actuality, these athletes are well-versed in politics, have successful businesses, and have given millions of dollars back to society in their charitable endeavors—making them more than qualified to speak up than most.

When these people realize that your body of work is actually too solid for them to discredit, then they will try to distract, disrupt, and turn attention away from that body of work. They turn into trolls, making absurd and oftentimes completely false or irrelevant comments, just to turn the focus on their narrative. The conversation is then quickly diverted from an actual issue we should all be talking about, to whether or not athletes should be the ones talking at all_._ Which is completely irrelevant because we are all citizens of the same community, facing the same problems. Your job doesn’t define you, and mine doesn’t define me.

All Americans not only have the right, but the obligation to hold elected officials—officials who WE put into, and can also vote OUT of, office—accountable. In the past few years, athletes and coaches have called out social and racial injustices to not only draw awareness to the lack of equity and equality, but to demand change. When we are attacked for speaking out, whether by members of the media or elected officials, it’s a ploy to displace and drain our collective influence and energy. Our social awareness is at an all-time high, don’t let that momentum get derailed by nonsense. So, athletes and citizens everywhere, stay focused.