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The controversy over protests during the national anthem at NFL games last season helped propel issues of racial inequality and social injustice to the forefront and gave athletes a stronger voice to bring about change Walt Aikens Jersey , current and former players said Friday.

The players, who spoke at a Harvard Law School summit on criminal justice reform, said they capitalized on the attention surrounding the protests to highlight issues they care about, like mass incarceration.

Now, they’re using their platform to talk to lawmakers, police chiefs and prosecutors across the country about injustices they see in the communities where they grew up.

”With all of the controversy and the fanfare around (the protests), it created a platform that was probably larger than any of us would have had individually, and we were able to leverage that,” said Malcolm Jenkins, a safety on the Philadelphia Eagles and co-founder of the Players Coalition, a group of NFL athletes advocating for policies to further social and racial equality.

Colin Kaepernick started the NFL anthem movement when he was with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Some players knelt during the anthem, an act that drew the ire of Republican President Donald Trump, who called for NFL owners to fire such players.

In response to the player demonstrations, the NFL agreed to commit $90 million over the next seven years to social justice causes in a plan that involves league players.

New England Patriot Devin McCourty said in an interview with The Associated Press that the NFL’s support of the players’ mission has been encouraging.

”I think the NFL has seen the bigger picture – that this is not just the players trying to do something to give back – but these are real issues that not just the players should care about but we should all care about Len Dawson Jersey ,” said McCourty, who spent Thursday at the Massachusetts statehouse lobbying lawmakers on juvenile justice issues.

The athletes were joined at the Harvard summit by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and other lawyers as well as professors, judges and activists. The players participated in small group discussions about policing, prosecutors and sentencing reform.

During a panel discussion led by The New York Times Magazine’s Emily Bazelon, the players discussed personal experiences – like watching videos of police shootings of black men or hearing the stories of their own family members – that drove them into activism.

They spoke of the need for police to have stronger relationships with people in their communities and the importance of having real conversations about race, even when it makes people uncomfortable.

”We have the unique ability to bring people to the table and now we have the responsibility when we have everyone at the table to speak truth and kind of force that conversation,” Jenkins said.

The players said some athletes worry that getting involved in social or political issues will hurt their careers. But they said they hope that lending their voices to these causes will inspire others to take action.

”A lot of people just think about athletes as just jocks, but there are some brilliant minds in those locker rooms,” said Anquan Boldin, a former Baltimore Raven.

—-

This story has been corrected to reflect that Jenkins’ first name is Malcolm not Malcom.



Follow Alanna Durkin Richer at Welcome to the Dolphins-Jets rivalry, Sam Darnold.

New York's rookie quarterback will be under center and in the spotlight for the latest matchup of AFC East enemies Sunday at MetLife Stadium, with a 2-0 start to the season on the line.

It might not sound like much, but consider this: The Dolphins haven't opened with two wins since 2013, when they started 3-0. Meanwhile Justin Hardy Jersey , the Jets haven't been 2-0 since Todd Bowles' first year as coach in 2015.

"All division games have that extra buzz around them, but I feel like when we play the Jets, it's always turned up just a little bit more," Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "I don't know what makes it that way or why it's that way. Maybe it's just the competitiveness of the games, but there always is an energy that goes with playing against the Jets."

New York leads the all-time series 54-50-1, but Miami has won three of the last four meetings.

Weird things also tend to happen when these teams square off. The muddy AFC championship game won by the Dolphins during the 1982 postseason. The back-and-forth air show by Dan Marino and Ken O'Brien in 1986. Marino's fake spike in 1994. The Monday night "miracle" comeback by the Jets in 2000.

And, that's just to name a few.

"I definitely have the feel, with them and the Patriots," Miami wide receiver Jakeem Grant said. "I feel like it is a rivalry game."

Darnold will get to experience it for the first time while also making his regular-season debut in front of the home crowd. The No. 3 overall draft pick got off to a rough start last Monday night at Detroit with his first pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown, but bounced back to have a solid night and lead New York to a 48-17 rout .

The 21-year-old Darnold finished 16 of 21 for 198 yards and two touchdowns, showing glimpses of what made him so coveted leading up to the draft.

"I feel like I live my whole life to play football and it's awesome to just be able to do that for a living," Darnold said. "I'm embracing it every single day."

Tannehill knows the feeling. After sitting out last season because of a knee injury, the Dolphins QB was back last week for the first time since 2016 and came out a winner after a 27-20 victory over Tennessee .

That came in the longest NFL game since the 1970 merger, outlasting the Titans in 7 hours Dorian O'Daniel Jersey , 8 minutes, including 3:59 in multiple weather delays .

"It was wild," Tannehill said, "but I'm really proud of our guys the way we responded."

Here are some other things to know as the Dolphins and Jets renew their rivalry:

DOMINANT DEFENSE

The Jets set a franchise record with 48 points on the road, and their defense played a big part.

New York had five interceptions against the Lions , including two by linebacker Darron Lee and one each by safety Jamal Adams and cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Trumaine Johnson. Lee returned the first of his picks 36 yards for a touchdown, the Jets' first defensive score since 2013 鈥?a span of 73 games that was the longest such drought in NFL history.

"It was definitely stepping stone in the right direction," Lee said. "We definitely want to build some consistency with that."

MOVIN' ON UP

Miami's Frank Gore has 14,087 career yards rushing and needs 15 to surpass former Jets star and Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin (14,101) for fourth place on the NFL's list.

"It speaks volumes for what he's accomplished," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. "It's unbelievable the amount of years he's played and the amount of carries he's had over his career and the success that he's had, the things that he's battled through."

CRUISE CONTROL

If the Jets' kick coverage is good, perhaps Grant will have to put it in high gear. He said he didn't on his 102-yard runback last week against Tennessee for his first career touchdown on a kickoff return.

"I wasn't even running full speed," said the 5-foot-7 Grant Morgan Cox Jersey , one of the NFL's fastest players. "I was actually three-quarters speed."

The third-year pro has career averages of 24.8 yards on kickoff returns and 7.7 on punt returns. So what's his top speed?

"All I can say is stay tuned," he said.

DYNAMIC DEBUT

Isaiah Crowell made an immediate impact for New York, rushing for 102 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries.

No other Jets running back has run for at least 100 yards and two scores in their debut with the team. With his 62-yard TD run, Crowell has six plays of 50 yards or more since 2015 鈥?tied with New Orleans' Mark Ingram for the most by a running back during that span.

GETTING TRICKY

The Dolphins showed some new wrinkles on offense in their opener, and there's likely more where that came from.

Wide receiver Albert Wilson took a handoff and had an option to lateral to running back Kenyan Drake.

"Some of that might be copied from somebody else that I used to be with," Gase said. "I've got a pretty good library of things that I can lean on."

He was referring to Mike Martz, one of his mentors and the former head coach of the Rams.

Wilson also lined up as a wildcat quarterback, with Tannehill split wide, but Miami called timeout before the snap.

AP Sports Writer Steven Wine contributed.

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