The Eagles landed in Harrisburg Tuesday, but they didn’t fly.
They took the train.
A trio of Philadelphia Eagles visited the Capitol mere hours after defeating the Washington Redskins on “Monday Night Football”.
They created a buzz in the building as lawmakers wanted to meet them, fans wanted selfies with them, and they politely obliged all requests.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and defensive lineman Chris Long are three of the Eagles most socially conscious players and they came to Harrisburg with a purpose.
Smith got personal at the Capitol.
“My mother was a convicted felon,” Smith said during an afternoon news conference.
He spoke of his childhood barely above the poverty line and a mother forced to work several low-paying jobs. He said she frequently applied for better positions.
“Oftentimes, she would get the job but once the background check came back they said, ‘hey, we can’t hire you,'” Smith said.
But the family’s fortunes turned, Smith said, after a pardon by Virginia’s governor cleared his mom’s record and a new job followed almost immediately.
“My mom goes from barely making it, keeping a roof over our head and food on the table, to nearly making six figures because of one decision a politician made,” he said.
The trio of Eagles was trying to convince state lawmakers to support a series of bills aimed at criminal justice, including a bill that would seal a person’s criminal record of certain offenses after 10 years of good behavior. That one hits especially close to home for Smith.
“Just because you commit a crime, whether young or old, shouldn’t be tied to you forever if you’re doing the right things,” Smith said.
But many Americans say NFL players aren’t doing the right thing when they protest the national anthem. Jenkins holds his fist in the air while the anthem plays. He says it’s to bring awareness to inequities facing communities of color in the U.S. like poverty, blight, crime and poor educational opportunities. He notes that many NFL players grew up in these communities and they desperately want to help change them.
“It has nothing to do with our military or the flag,” Jenkins said. “We honor our country which has given us all the opportunities that we have. But we also have a responsibility to use our platform in a way that can effect real change and touch real people. That’s all we’re trying to do.”
Long, who has vowed to give all of this season’s paychecks to help economically challenged kids pay for private schools, supports Jenkins effort.
“We all digest that time during the anthem differently,” Long said. “The anthem means something differently to everybody. I will never kneel, but I support those players that do because it’s their right and also, to lift up as a peer people who are doing substantive things like Malcolm and be involved in those things off the field.”