The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. says he plans to meet with Philadelphia Eagles players at training camp Tuesday to thank them for their protests last season — and to tell them that's not enough.
"To capture the culture of that movement they in fact must become themselves very public registered voters," Jackson said of the National Football League pregame protests, where players knelt or raised fists to protest police violence against people of color. "They can't just protest in an idle way. They must declare that they are registered voters."
Jackson singled out players Michael Bennett and Malcolm Jenkins, saying he planned "to thank them for standing up and being young men of dignity." Jackson spoke at a National Commission for Voter Justice event at Drexel University.
Bennett and Jenkins were undecided about whether they would protest at Thursday's first preseason game.
Jackson, who also visited training camp for Sunday's open practice and spoke to Bennett, cast past protests as patriotic.
"The fact is, kneeling is an innocent, honorable, non-violent protest," said the two-time presidential candidate. "If you were desecrating the flag by stomping on it or stepping on it that would be considered disrespectful."
Jackson expanded his protest comments to include a recent back-and-forth between President Trump and National Basketball Association star LeBron James, who said on CNN he would never sit down to speak with Trump. The president, in turn, questioned James' intelligence.
Jackson praised James for recently opening a school for at-risk children in his hometown of Akron, a move cheered by first lady Melania Trump. He compared that to Trump's history of draft deferments and business bankruptcies.
"LeBron has done all the right things," Jackson said. "I don't know if he's jealous of LeBron's success or using him as a weapon, a race weapon to incite fears among white people."
Jackson, in his comments, dubbed James "the lion king" and Trump "the lyin' king."
Jackson is in Philadelphia for the Progressive National Baptist Church convention, working with the group on voter registration and turn-out for the midterm elections in November. He called on professional athletes to be "examples of citizenship."