Chris Long, a former first-round pick of the St. Louis Rams and popular player before the team moved to Los Angeles, threw his support behind a Philadelphia Eagles teammate and in doing so may influence the on-going national anthem debate in the NFL.
Before a preseason game Thursday, Malcolm Jenkins thrust a clenched fist into the air while standing for the “Star Spangeled Banner,” a gesture made in protest of racial injustice. Long held one hand over his heart and the other drapped across Jenkins’ shoulder.
Long is a graduate of the University of Virginia and calls Charlottesville his hometown. It was there where a “Unite the Right” rally clashed with counter-demonstrators over the removal of a statue depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 other were injured when white supremecist James Alex Fields Jr, of Ohio, plowed his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators.
Long told Yahoo Sports it’s time more athletes — white or black — take a moral stand.
“I think it’s a good time for people that look like me to be here for people that are fighting for equality,” Long said after the game.
Yahoo reported that Long also spoke against President Donald Trump’s “both sides” speech in the aftermath of last week’s clash, that included white supremecist groups and KKK members marching with torches and chanting Nazi slogans such as “Jews will not replace me,” and “blood and soil.”
“It’s been a hard week for everybody,” Long told Yahoo. “I think it’s not just a hard week for someone being from Charlottesville. It’s a tough week for America. I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘You need white athletes to get involved in the anthem protest.’ I’ve said before that I’ll never kneel for an anthem because the flag means something different to everybody in this country, but I support my peers.”
Long is the son of football Hall of Famer and Fox Sports analyst Howie Long. He was the second overall pick of the Rams in the 2008 NFL Draft. He led the team with 13 quareterback sacks in 2011 and with 11.5 in 2012.
Long departed the team when the team departed St. Louis, signing a one-year deal with the New England Patriots. He just started a new two-year deal with the Eagles.