Will Doug Pederson Kneel with Eagles Players for National Anthem?

Doug Pederson

Getty Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, with his top assistant Duce Staley.

When the lights finally go on in Week 1, there are bound to be a good chunk of players kneeling for the national anthem. How will the Eagles handle their right to protest?

Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie put out a poignant statement on the issue of systemic racism and social injustice. He acknowledged a need for change and vowed to foster lasting social change with “concrete action.” Head coach Doug Pederson reportedly shared a similar sentiment during a virtual team meeting but what both men failed to address their stance on players kneeling on the field when the flag gets unfurled.

It’s a hot-button issue in professional sports, one that took NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell almost five years to finally address and support. He’s already taking heat from some fans and President Trump. It would be shocking to see any coach or owner condemn black players from taking a knee in 2020, especially in the current social climate. Change needs to come, from the top all the way down.

“I am both encouraged and inspired listening to our players and so many others who are dedicated to coming together as people who embrace our shared humanity,” Lurie said in a statement. “We must all continue to have these discussions and turn them into concrete action in order to help foster lasting social change. In the coming days, weeks, months and years, I am dedicated to engaging in dialogue with community leaders, committing our resources to support organizations working on reform, and using our platform to play an active role in the change we must achieve.”

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Pederson Previously Supported Standing for Anthem

Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was the first to go on record saying that he would take a knee with his players on the field. It was a powerful statement that was echoed by Washington Redskins coach Ron Rivera.

What will Pederson do when the Eagles play the Redskins on Sept. 13? He has previously said that his preference was for everyone to stand for the national anthem. The coach prefaced the comment by saying he understood the need to protest and “respected everybody’s opinions.”

“Listen, I can appreciate everybody’s opinions and I respect everybody’s opinions,” Pederson said in August 2016, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “But at the same time, I feel that [the national anthem] is important and it’s obviously out of respect for the men and women of our country that sacrifice in order for us to coach and play this great game. So I get it. I understand it. But at the same time, I encourage everybody to stand.”

Later that year, Pederson changed course a bit after Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long raised their firsts in solidarity to demonstrate on the field. The head coach said he would join in a team-wide protest because it showed unity.

“If it was team-wide, if they wanted to do something team-wide, I’d definitely be for that,” Pederson said in September 2016, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think it shows unity and there’s no division that way, and I think it sends a great message that from our standpoint, the National Football League and the platform and the individuals, we love this country and what it represents and the flag and the national anthem and everything.”

Rodney McLeod Believes Eagles Will Protest

Eagles safety Rodney McLeod has big shoes to fill with Malcolm Jenkins off the roster, in more ways than one. He’s taking his new leadership role seriously, too.

McLeod was out publicly protesting in downtown Philadelphia last week and that activism may translate into an on-the-field demonstration. According to ESPN’s Tim McManus, McLeod plans to protest racial injustice during the national anthem and expects his teammates to join him. They just haven’t decided on the exact gesture or freedom of expression.

“I would believe so. I think it’s important for us to continue this and not let this pass us by,” McLeod told ESPN. “So let’s take the right steps and that means committing ourselves throughout the 2020 season and further until we get change.”

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