Philadelphia Eagles defensive end and Charlottesville, Va. native Chris Long went on the Rich Eisen show Friday to discuss race in America and his support for teammate Malcolm Jenkins’ protest during the National Anthem.
Jenkins has been protesting with a raised first during the anthem dating back to last season, and on Thursday, Long draped his arm around Jenkins during the playing of the song before a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. Long and Jenkins are first-time teammates this season.
Long, 32, who was born in Charlottesville and played at Virginia, explained why he was compelled to stand with Jenkins in wake of last weekend’s white supremacist violence and with dialogue about racism at the forefront of the national conversation.
“For me, I’ve always felt like off the field [we should] promote equality, but this week I thought maybe a symbolic gesture might be what was poignant for me personally,” Long said. “I approached Malcolm and I said I don’t want to offend, I don’t want to step on your toes, but I'm here to support you being a black male in America, I can never imagine what it feels like in the face of all that stuff.
“I don’t think you deserve a medal for making a simple gesture, but people have been positively touched by it. Just putting your arm around somebody, it’s not something that takes much effort to make that much of a difference, and I hope it inspires some people to get together on this thing.
“I just told him I appreciate him giving me the opportunity to support him. This isn’t something I struggle with daily, as far as being the subject of hatred or institutional racism or white supremacy. It’s not something I deal with. So allowing me to lend my support...that meant something.”
The national anthem protests started by Colin Kaepernick last season have spread around the league but remain a divisive topic, as Kaepernick remains unsigned amid speculation team owners are freezing him out over his political stance.
“Everybody has a take on the national anthem, our flag, some of the protests that have occurred during it, and I’m one of those people that has said always — and you can call it a cop-out if you want, but I’m just speaking the truth with you — I have never kneeled for the anthem,” Long said. “But I have respect for the activism and action that somebody like Colin [Kaepernick] has taken off the field, away from the anthem. The anthem started the conversation, but he’s followed through with activism and action.”
“Malcolm Jenkins is one of those guys who’s leading from the front...we need more people that walk the walk and talk the talk.”