At just 22 years old, when Jenkins had just finished his first NFL season with the Saints, he and his mother worked hand in hand to start a charitable foundation focused on helping youths in marginalized communities. He also began tackling the issue of gun violence in New Orleans. So for Jenkins, the call for social justice started at a very young age, and he has always been up for it.
Jenkins had to go through therapy to protect his mental health
He had worked hard over the years but has never done it for the cameras to see until 2016 when police officers killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. That was when he decided it was time to take action and speak out for the rights of black people and to fight against racism and police brutality.
“All of a sudden. I found myself in a place where I was prepared to step up.” Jenkins said. “I was just like, ok, ‘enough is enough.’ Like, ‘I don’t want just to tweet. I don’t want to wear a t-shirt’. And that was a lifetime of, you know, people planting seeds and people pruning me. And then, I found myself ready to be a leader, not only on the field but for the community. And I credit everybody who has been part of my upbringing.”
Since then, Jenkins has taken it upon himself to do great things to support the black community. Recently, he became a political analyst for CNN. And with the help of his production company, Listen Up Media, he has released a documentary called ‘Black Boys’ which is his first work after becoming an executive producer. He didn’t end there, he is also the co-founder of the Players Coalition, and it consists of a group of NFL players who are activists.
Sometimes they say bad news travels faster or one will only get to be in the spotlight when he or she did something bad, but that is not the case for Jenkins, the world has recognized him for the good he is doing for the black community, but Jenkins does not like being in the public eye. He prefers working under the sheets, but the opportunities and pressure downing on him is not one that can be kept hidden from the public.
In the cost of leadership, he had to face backlash from fellow players
“It’s a lot easier for me to be a leader and vocal on the field. That’s where a lot of my personality comes out, and I’ve been a captain on every team that I’ve been on since I’ve started this game. But stepping out more into the public eye and being a voice in that regard took a lot of preparing, and really, I think courage.” Jenkins admitted.
Jenkins said he is an introvert, and being in the public eye can be very draining. He admits to going to therapy every week to protect his mental health because he felt he was dealing with anxiety and depression at the same time. Jenkins wants the public to know that a lot of pressure goes into the work he does as an athlete and a leader, and he is not immune to pressure and anxiety. He is just like every black athlete out there. He has received backlash from fellow players as well.
An instance was when Eric Reid criticized him for taking less money from the NFL towards social justice. And was accused of being a sellout for trying to work with the NFL
“Being in a performance-based business where your performance is your livelihood. A lot of that causes pressure, and these are the things we usually don’t talk about as men.”
Jenkins always accompanies his words with action, and he has been meeting with local politicians and grassroots organizations. He organized tours and participated in the police ride-along. He has built a legacy that people will look at in the future and be very proud of. Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas describes him as very professional and takes care of business and believes he has a powerful voice.
Jenkins has said he loves the game of football and very much appreciates being recognized for his contributions to society.