Malcolm Jenkins, of the New Orleans Saints, has a new title: CNN contributor. That’s a big deal for Jenkins, for the Saints, for the NFL and for CNN viewers.
The Saints’ safety has been outspoken on national affairs, responding to questions from commentators and journalists, posting and sharing on social media and recording videos. Now he’ll have a regular national platform on an important news network as he is scheduled to discuss social injustices, racism and related matters on a variety of CNN shows.
As our nation experiences significant upheaval, some of us are listening more. We open our hearts and minds to listen attentively to voices we may not have heard, or voices that may not have captured our attention previously.
“Now more than ever, the public needs to be educated on the roles of elected positions of power, such as the district attorney, police chief or city council and how to hold those individuals accountable, especially through their voice and their vote. In an important election year, I’m eager to join the CNN family and share my perspective as a regular contributor,” Jenkins was quoted saying in a statement. “I also want to thank CNN for their thoughtful leadership in viewing professional athletes beyond their sport as another educated voice who brings a varied perspective and value to the network’s programming and shows.”
On the surface, some might wonder why a football player still active in the NFL might have this opportunity. Jenkins’ voice has been heard and read on the pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times as well as CNN. He joined with former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin to form the Players Coalition, an advocacy group independent of the NFL, to focus on racial and social inequality. In 2010, Jenkins founded The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, a non-profit organization centered on helping young people, particularly those in under-served communities in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio.
There are other athletes with compelling, relevant ideas and opinions in baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer. We don't believe in "shut up and play." We're in favor of "speak up, champion and inform" so we can consider the validity of a broader world of ideas.
In a tweet the day the network announced his new role, Jenkins tweeted: “Looking forward to being heard.”
We look forward to hearing what Jenkins has to say. We look forward to listening, and learning.