Following the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, the Eagles turned their team meeting on Monday, June 1 into an open forum for players to speak openly and candidly about racial injustice in this country. Some of the heartfelt words by players like DeSean Jackson inspired teammates to speak up and use their social media platforms to make public statements. The conversations continued in the meeting that Thursday when NBA Hall of Famer and former Sixers star Charles Barkley spoke to the team.
Head Coach Doug Pederson established two themes for the Eagles earlier this offseason – "trust" and "stronger together." Pederson previously stated how those concepts were ideal considering the global pandemic that forced players and coaches to operate virtually all spring from around the country. But the adages of "trust" and "stronger together" also hold true for the team when it comes to the galvanized effort for racial equality.
Entering his fifth season as head coach, Pederson has always listened to his players. Each year, he forms a leadership council that he meets every week during the season. Typically, it's regarding on-field matters or about the locker room culture. When the Eagles were preparing for the Divisional Round matchup with the Falcons in the 2017 playoffs, it was the players who told Pederson that they wanted to put the pads on and endure tougher practices. Pederson listened and obliged.
Pederson's ability to connect with his players is evident once again as he has spent the past few weeks listening – and learning – from his players.
"The first thing I wanted to do was listen, listen to my players, listen to the guys that have feelings, have strong beliefs, and I want to understand everything that I can," Pederson said on Tuesday morning. "This is what I told my team several weeks ago; I want to work. I want to understand. I came from a world that didn't understand that, so for me as an adult, I want to be able to take the information and teach my own boys, for those of you that know my three sons. I love all of our players, coaches, and that for me is what I've taken away, it's just the understanding and knowledge of what these guys go through on a daily basis."
The conversations, much like the reform work around the country, will be ongoing when the players report to the NovaCare Complex for the start of Training Camp. Among the topics that the team will discuss will be whether to protest during games this season.
"I support players who demonstrate peacefully and stand for something because we have to fix the whys," Pederson said.