Tuesday marked one year since the nation collectively witnessed the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
The tragedy underscored much of the NFL’s offseason, with players such as Eagles’ veteran safety Rodney McLeod calling for an end to racial injustice for Black people in America. McLeod has done plenty in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, launching fundraising initiatives to support the local Black community and leading the team’s social justice committee.
On Wednesday, McLeod reflected on what the last year has been like.
“Yesterday was a reminder of an incident that was tragic to us all that we witnessed,” McLeod said Wednesday during a video news conference. “[I] continue to pray for the Floyd family. They lost a loved one that they no longer can see, share memories with, share holidays with, and so my respect goes out to them. I think that it woke America up, in a sense. In a time where we were hit with this pandemic, and now we saw this horrific event take place, it really, I think, sparked a fight in a lot of people.”
McLeod may have been the most outspoken member of the Eagles against racial injustice last year, but he wasn’t alone. Malcolm Jenkins spent five years with the Eagles and has become one of the preeminent voices on the topic, and McLeod helped fill the void he left last offseason after he was released.
Several white players, including Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz, joined McLeod in speaking up last offseason. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie issued a statement a few days after Floyd’s murder and had an emotional news conference later that summer as several leagues cancelled games in protest of police brutality, and a few NFL teams cancelled practices. The organization left Lincoln Financial Field’s lights on Tuesday night to commemorate the year since Floyd’s death.
“It created a lot of uncomfortable conversations, and I think trended in the right direction when it comes to change,” McLeod said. “You saw a lot of people get involved, the NFL take a huge stance, you saw the NBA, all across sports, man. That’s the one thing that brings people together and that draws a lot of attention and has some of the largest platforms.”
McLeod and his wife, Erika, launched an initiative to fund “education, empowerment and development of today’s youth leaders” last season, naming the campaign “Game Changers.” The Eagles donated $10,000 toward the McLeods cause, but the 30-year-old safety said there is still work to be done.
“For guys like myself, we just have to continue to be committed to the work knowing that it did spark. But it didn’t finish anything,” he said. “We have to continue to be as committed as we were a year ago, right? Have that same sense of urgency and be action driven. I know, for myself and my family and our foundation, we’ll continue to fight the fight and as this season comes along. I know, as an organization, we’ll continue to live out the message that we set last year and just try to move the needle forward in some way.”
On the field, McLeod is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last December. The recovery from such an injury typically takes about a year, but McLeod said he believes he’ll be able to play by the season opener.
“I’m just extremely confident in the work I’ve been putting in,” he said. “The progress has been great, from week to week, month to month, trusting in the trainers, everyone from the strength staff to the medical staff as well. Just trusting in them and trusting in the process, really.
“For myself, it’s just a mindset. I have to take myself there. That is my goal. I want to be available for my team, not for only eight games but for all 17. That is my motivation. For me, I have all intentions on being there Week 1. At the end of the day, you gotta listen to your body and listen to everyone around me, but I am grinding around the clock to be available for my team.”