Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins saw a brewing problem, and decided to do something about it. For the last few years, Jenkins' bad reputation had been gathering steam. There were many stories from fans accusing Jenkins of being rude and disrespectful to them when seeking autographs, which led to speculation that Jenkins had gotten "fat cat syndrome" – a condition where an individual feels that they no longer have to treat people with respect due to their superstar status.
Jenkins is out to prove that the perception isn't the case.
According to his training camp diary posted on the Charlotte Observer website, Jenkins' new community relations project, "Tackling Life's Obstacles", allowed for 50 kids from Right Moves for Youth to ride a bus to Spartanburg and watch practice, after which he treated them to lunch and visited with them a bit.
Is it genuine, or just a ploy to get the bad taste out of the mouths of Panthers fans, who are ready to lynch anyone that has the public stigma of being a rude and selfish person? The mob mentality definitely exists on the internet, but as is always the case, there are two sides to every story.
Jenkins undoubtedly has people recognizing him everywhere he goes, and must get autograph requests every time he is in public. It's extremely easy to make money off of them, as eBay and other auction or memorabilia sites have become extremely popular in the age of the internet. It's one thing for a kid to ask for an autograph; it's another for the same adult to come back day after day, asking for your autograph to put money in his pocket.
Fellow Panther Steve Smith has instituted a "five-foot and under rule", meaning he'll only sign autographs to kids. What is encouraging is that the players understand how valuable they are to the kids, and that they haven't let a few seedy people out for a quick buck ruin it for hundreds of true fans whose dreams are to meet their favorite players.
Jenkins goes on to talk about "autograph etiquette", and how some people expect that just because he's an athlete, that he has to sign autographs. People have spoken about personal experiences, where they’ve witnessed other people being rude to players, whose autographs they are seeking. In that case, who wouldn’t get angry when peppered with that kind of attitude on a daily basis? Who can blame Jenkins for being rude back? What ever happened to common decency from one person to another?
It's important that Kris has taken the time to write these journals and give the fans insight on the way he operates and the things he faces daily. It will definitely help in the public perception of him, and it will have a positive impact on the kids as well. Many of these kids don't have a lot of things to look forward to, and for a player of Kris' stature to do something like this and show them that there is something more to life than what they face day to day, it's invaluable.
Indeed, it seems Jenkins has turned a new leaf. Let's hope it's genuine.