Jason Avant certainly has earned the right to comment on just about anything in the NFL, especially when it comes to a locker room culture that league wide has come under much criticism in recent months.
Avant has become an elder-statesmen of sorts in the Eagles locker room because of not only his leadership on the field and his tenure with the team, but because of his ability to lead off the field as well.
The Eagles locker room was shaken to the core in the aftermath of Riley Cooper using a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert this past summer and Avant was among the veterans front and center who helped facilitate a scenario where the embattled receiver would be welcomed back into the fold with open arms.
In contributing to Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback website, Avant called for reform across the league.
"In Philadelphia, our franchise has had some great leaders. The spirit of Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook and Troy Vincent live on," he writes. "Their names are mentioned a lot in organizational meetings, and Dawkins can come speak to the team any time he wants. We also have an owner, Jeffrey Lurie, who is hands-on and cordial; he has lunch with some players, and always discusses the mindset and the standards that those earlier guys raised—and I think that standard is extremely important. Why? Look at what happened this season with one of our receivers, Riley Cooper, who was caught on video using the ‘n’ word at a concert. That incident had the potential to divide us. Instead, because of strong team leadership, we worked through the issue together; we forgave Riley and we we able to grow, both as a team and as individuals—Riley included."
But as tensions rose in Miami this year in the conflict between Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, Avant says the league needs to take a more hands on approach to handling such alleged acts of bullying.
"Commissioner, we need you to set standards. We need you to make it black and white. We need standards, and if we don’t meet them, we shouldn’t be here."
Avant, 30, suggests more supervision within the locker room, harsher fines for conduct detrimental to the team and a strict code of conduct for players to follow.
In general, Avant believes the NFL needs to begin acting less like a mere employer more like a positive influence -- more like a "parent."
"Right now the NFL has an opportunity. We know this is a league that’s all about making money and all about winning, but here’s a chance for us to demonstrate that we’re more than that. The NFL can be more than just an employer. It can be a parent. With proper structure in place, the NFL can be a support system for someone in the same situation Jonathan Martin was in, and also provide a helping hand to those who hazed him. We can educate young men on the merits of tolerance, and also the value of holding ourselves to higher standards. It can help mold us into productive members of society when we leave this league. Aren’t those the values we want for our kids?"
The Eagles have many difficult decisions to make this offseason, especially at the wide receiver position with both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper due to be free agents and a strong draft class at the position, it remains to be seen whether or not Avant's on-field production will be enough to keep him in midnight green.
Either way, it seems Avant is avid about his crusade to make the league more hospitable to all players moving forward.