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By Jennifer McGraw, Sports Talk Philly Contributor
Though the Philadelphia Eagles are ecstatic about another year in the playoffs, the team is taking time to create an initiative for an ongoing issue in the Philadelphia community.
After a record-high homicides in 2021, the organization came together to enact a gun violence campaign on Tuesday, January 4, called, “End Philly Gun Violence.” During press conferences on Tuesday, members of the team sported jackets and tee shirts with the message, “Enough Keeping Score, End Philly Gun Violence.”
One member of the team, Eagles safety Rodney McLeod, was particularly moved by this problem in the city. After signing with the team and moving to the city in 2016 as a free agent, McLeod immersed himself in the community. He and his wife, Erika, soon developed the “Change Our Future” foundation which aims to bring positive change to the youth in Philadelphia. Part of this change includes taking action against the gun violence Philadelphia youth face.
Their inaugural “Sneaker Ball” event was held in early December to raise money to give educational and empowerment resources to the youth.
Philadelphia’s history with gun violence is nothing new, but in 2021, the city faced 562 homicides. These shooting occurred mostly in North and West Philadelphia, where there are a lot of low-income communities with little to no access to the necessities they need. According to the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting, a disturbing majority of the gun violence victims (fatal and nonfatal) are 24 years of age or younger.
End Philly Gun Violence includes more than $316,000 in grant funding donated by the Eagles Social Justice Fund towards 32 different social justice non-profits. Besides McLeod, several Eagles serve on the council in this campaign, such as tight end Dallas Goedert and defensive end Brandon Graham. In addition to the campaign, the Eagles also shared a corresponding website for resources and more information about the initiative. The resources include different organizations that provide services for the Philadelphia community. The website will also have social media posts and public service announcements about the initiative as it continues to grow. This website was created in conjunction with the city of Philadelphia.
The website reads, “The City of Philadelphia is supporting people in every neighborhood to build a foundation forward for a way to give communities hope and a path out of violence. Reach for hope, instead of a gun. You are not alone. There is help. There are ways to drive positive change without feeling the need to “keep score.”
“Unfortunately, some of these kids are seeing this happen to a neighbor or a block or two down from them here in Philadelphia and it’s sad and it’s disturbing,” said Rodney, in an interview in November regarding the gun violence issue.
The work towards ending gun violence in the city will not be easy, but the Philadelphia Eagles are proud to take on initiative as it is something many of its players are passionate about.