Eagles Captain Explains Anthem Protest, Hints at Future Demonstrations

Rodney McLeod

Getty Eagles starting safety Rodney McLeod has taken leadership of the secondary and the Social Justice Committee in Philly.

The Eagles stayed in the locker room for the singing of the national anthem in Week 1. That decision was a unified one.

While some players were “indifferent” on how to approach the demonstration, per Rodney McLeod, the players ultimately decided to make a statement on social injustice. The Eagles sat out the “Star-Spangled Banner” as a team but they did come out for the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the defacto Black national anthem. For that one, players interlocked arms with their rivals from the Washington Football Team. The two teams had been in discussion on their pre-game plans earlier in the week.

“It was a players’ choice,” McLeod told reporters on a Zoom call. “We had a good dialogue amongst us as teammates and some guys felt a little indifferent about going out for the anthem and what we wanted to, I guess, demonstrate. We feel, as a team, that there is a lot of injustice and exists in certain communities, particularly the African-American communities, and things that are said within that national anthem, we need to make sure as a country we do a better job at having justice and freedom for every race that exists.”

Eagles coach Doug Pederson called it a “really good moment” and revealed that he and Washington coach Ron Rivera had talked about it.

“I know our players were in communication with their players,” Pederson said, “and I had actually reached out to Coach Rivera during the week and let him know sort of our intention and he gave me his intention and then the players, the players communicated everything else amongst themselves.”

McLeod didn’t rule out continued protests throughout the course of the season. It’s an issue that demands a continued spotlight and those conversations will continue.

“So for us, we decided that we didn’t feel like it was important for us to come out during the anthem,” McLeod said, “and we’ll see if that continues throughout the season or whatever ways we can show our protest and demonstrations.”

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Defensive Communication Not ‘Perfect’ in Opener

The Eagles’ defense only allowed 3.4 yards per play in the opener, tops in the entire NFL. It was an encouraging performance from a revamped unit, one that switched up its normal philosophy by playing man-to-man pass defense on 50 of 70 snaps. That being said, there were a few miscommunications in the secondary.

The biggest one happened on Washington’s first touchdown when Logan Thomas hauled in a six-yard strike. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz admitted it was a blown coverage, as did McLeod — the new captain of the defense — who took ownership of it.

“The communication, it wasn’t perfect, but I think we played good,” McLeod said. “I think there’s always room for improvement. We didn’t play great, because we didn’t win, and we didn’t find a way to prevent them from scoring in the red zone.”

The red-zone was a problem for the Eagles in Week 1 after Washington went three-for-four. There’s work to be done there.

“We have traditionally been a good red-zone defense,” Schwartz said. “But just because we have over the last four years doesn’t mean that’s where we are right now. We have some work to do.”

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