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Chris Long Explains What Anthem Protests Are About, Says Messaging Getting Lost

Eagles defensive end says forcing players to stand for national anthem could lead to messier situation.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long appears on this week's episode of Off The Board with Jimmy Traina. During the interview, Long, who has been vocal about supporting players who have taken a knee during the national anthem to bring awareness to inequality and social injustice, discussed many aspects of the issue, including the point of the protests, Donald Trump's motivation for getting involved and much more.

On whether he's surprised by how things have spun out of control:

"It’s been chaotic. You had the initial purpose for the protest, which is criminal justice reform and increase police accountability. Players pushing to get things passed legislatively that will improve their communities and that push for equality. That kind of gets lost in the messaging of the media a lot of times. Obviously not everybody in the media is crumbling the messaging, but when you read headlines like 'Protesting the national anthem,' etc., I think people lose sight of what’s going on, which is players using their best platform that they have to bring attention to these things they want to talk about.

I talked to some people before where it’s like, 'Why don’t you use another forum.' These guys are using this forum because if you stood in an open locker room and in the corner and said, 'Hey, I want to talk about social injustice,' nobody would come over and talk to you. They want to talk about football and or what’s up next week, who you’re playing, how you’ played on Sunday. So this is the opportunity for NFL players to seize the platform and obviously the discussion’s been raging."

On the NFL forcing players to stand for the anthem:

"Honestly, that’s a whole other can of worms. You had Trump’s comments, you had a wave of protest in reaction to Trump’s comments, which is perfectly understandable. Players wanted to speak out against Trump, but again we kinda got away from the real message and now we’re talking about Jerry Jones laying down the law in Dallas and possibly Stephen Ross in Miami and now there’s a memo out today, which I really haven’t had a minute to read, so I’m gonna educate myself on where that’s going and I think it’s going to be interesting. Potentially you’re gonna see another wave of protest of people that might say, 'You know what, the hell with this, I’m not gonna be told what to do,' and the owners are certainly able to lay down the law if they choose. It’s their workplace ultimately, but, the players are gonna have a lot to say about it. ...

I know there’s a meeting coming up in a couple of weeks. At the end of the day at this point, I think it’s important for the league to continue to try to investigate how they can provide a better vehicle for players to promote the things they’re trying to accomplish in the community as they relate to injustice, inequality and things they want to get done legislatively in their communities. I believe if the league put their best foot forward and provides the lifeblood of the league, which are the players, the opportunity to do this in a better vehicle than the national anthem, then you might see less people kneeling, but I don’t think mandating that players can’t kneel is gonna be the answer. I think you’ll see a messier situation."


On whether he's surprised Trump interjected himself in the anthem controversy:

"I’m not surprised. I think he’s playing to what he perceives as his base. I think that’s been proven to be true. I think everything with him is either a diversion tactic or a play to a base -- or a portion of his base. At this point it’s become identity politics and unfortunately it’s another layer that people have to wade through to get to the issues, which I think if a lot of people just read about -- what guys like Malcolm Jenkins are doing in the community and what they’re protesting and what they standing for off the field -- they would see that we can probably find a lot more common ground than you’d think. And myself, as somebody who's supporting the protest, I’ve said before being an American, the flag means something different to everybody. I’ll always stand for it, but at the same time, I’m gonna support what Malcolm’s doing wholeheartedly and hopefully walk the walk tenfold off the field. I’m not gonna drop to a knee, but I’m gonna bust my ass off the field to affect equality and social justice in my own way."

On whether people want to be open to hearing what players have to say about why they're taking a knee:

"I think there are multiple groups of people here. You have people who don’t wanna listen at all no matter what. You could protest postgame interviews and they would say 'It’s not the time and the place, keep politics out of sports, I don’t want to hear about it, I don’t wanna hear about injustices minorities face, I don’t wanna hear about the criminal justice system needing reform, I don’t wanna hear about players that believe cops are good people, but when there is an incident that needs to be brought to justice that it is not and players are concerned about this.” There is a portion of the population that never wants to hear about it. But I do think there are fringe people that legitimately do care about the flag and it’s clouding their judgment here, but when you listen to players talk about it, they’re not protesting the flag. The beautiful thing about this country is you can protest peacefully, so you have some veterans who say, 'This is what I fought for. I fought for these freedoms. I fought for these rights.'  So it depends who you ask. I do believe there are a bunch of people who are stonewalling this conversation, but those are a small amount of people I believe who are lost in the messaging."

On people wanting to make the protests about the military: I wanna know about all these people who are all of the sudden the troops biggest supporters that haven’t done shit for our military 365 days a year. All they do is dress up in patriotic clothing and drink beer on the 4th of July and then all of a sudden when a black guy gets up and says, 'There’s something I wanna talk about," they hide behind the troops and the flag. I just think it’s an insult. If that’s what you’re doing, it’s an insult to our veterans because as somebody who deeply cares about our veterans and has tried to engage in things off the field that prop our veterans up, this has been a tough thing for me to grapple with at times. But I think it's the right thing. One of my good friends, Nate Boyer, who has been in the mix here with Kaepernick here, influencing him to take a knee rather than sit, he’s a guy who speaks so eloquently about it. He fought for that right,  whether he agrees with it or not as the form of protest that is our right as American citizens."