Dear Mr. President,
You may recall that I wrote you an open letter back on June 6 urging you to listen to the Eagles players who asserted that the NFL player protests were not driven by a lack of respect for our country, but rather were intended to draw attention to the need for criminal-justice reform in America. I urged you to invite the Eagles down to the White House for a customary ceremony and to tell them that you would give them 45 minutes to talk about criminal justice.
Unfortunately, you didn't do so, but recently you have made some strong statements in support of criminal-justice reform and the passage of legislation to enact it. You have said some very positive things like:
"[The act] will make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time."
"Americans from across the political spectrum can unite around prison reform legislation that will reduce crime while giving our fellow citizens a chance at redemption."
"We're all better off when former inmates can reenter society as law-abiding, productive citizens."
If you truly feel this way you should have taken me up on my suggestion to discuss this with the Eagles players back in June. Had you made this offer I believe that 90 percent of the Eagles players would have shown up for the discussion and ceremony. But you have a second chance to right this wrong because of something extraordinary that happened in Philadelphia right before Thanksgiving.
Malcolm Jenkins, our starting safety, organized a number of players to give $25,000 so that nine prisoners who are awaiting trial could make bail and go home to their families for the holidays. Eagles owners Jeff and Christina Lurie matched the donations through "The Eagles Social Justice Fund." They did this not only so that those people could be reunited with their families for Thanksgiving, but also as a statement that we need to reform our cash bail system here in Philadelphia. But they did even more than that. They organized a service fair so the people who were bailed out could connect with organizations that would provide them with job-readiness training in fields such as auto mechanics. They also connected them with the Center for Returning Citizens, which helps them with a myriad of reentry problems. Interestingly, the director of the center made the point that we need to scale up these services to make a real impact. And that's where you and Congress can make a huge difference.
I'm sure you will agree that what the people you once referred to as "sons of bitches" did here is pretty remarkable. As you know, since you are a football fan, the Eagles are off to a rocky start in their attempt to defend their Super Bowl title, but I suggest you invite them to the White House again to talk about prison reform and go through with the ceremony. I can't speak for the players, but I have a hunch that if you make criminal-justice reform, which appears to be as important to you as it is to them, the focus of the meeting they will come in droves. You know Philadelphia sports fans and you know that we live and die by what our team does on the field. As a lifelong Eagles fan, I thought I couldn't be any prouder than I was that day in Minneapolis when we defeated the Patriots and became champions, but I was wrong. Even though the Eagles' record stands at a disappointing 5-6, I am even prouder of Jenkins, his teammates and our organization now than I was on that freezing day in Minnesota. And you, as our president, should be, too. So invite them down. They are great people who have a lot to say about making America a fairer and better place.