Chris Long to Malcolm Jenkins: 'I'm Here for You' - NBC 10 Philadelphia

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Chris Long to Malcolm Jenkins: 'I'm Here for You'

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    Chris Long to Malcolm Jenkins: 'I'm Here for You'
    CSNPhilly.com
    Chris Long to Malcolm Jenkins: 'I'm here for you'

    Eagles defensive end Chris Long became the first white professional athlete to actively participate in the national anthem demonstrations designed to cast a light on racial and social injustices.

    Before the Eagles' preseason game against the Bills on Thursday, Long put his arm around safety Malcolm Jenkins (see story), who has raised his right fist in the air during the playing of the anthem since last season. Long explained he felt it necessary to show support for the cause in the aftermath of violence in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

    "It's been a hard week for everybody," Long said postgame. "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, 'Why do athletes get involved in the national anthem protests?' I've said before that I'll never kneel for an anthem because the flag means something different for everybody in this country, but I support my peers. If you don't see why you need allies for people that are fighting for equality right now, I don't think you'll ever see it.

    "Malcolm is a leader and I'm here to show support as a white athlete."

    Long spoke out about the Charlottesville protests on Sunday (see story), making the case that his stance is not about politics, but "right and wrong." One day earlier, protests over the removal of Confederate memorials turned tragic when a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed.

    After the events that unfolded, Long could no longer sit idly by.

    "I was inspired by a lot of the allies that were there to stand up against hate in my hometown and I wasn't able to be there to protest or to stand up against hate," Long said. "People like Heather Heyer gave their life for that and I was inspired by that.

    "I just told Malcolm, 'I'm here for you.' I think it's a good time for people that look like me to be there for people that are fighting for equality."

    Jenkins said he was aware Long was going to take part in the demonstration, and was appreciative of his teammate's backing.

    "Before the game, he approached me and he wanted to, in his own way, send a message of support," Jenkins said.

    "I think he understands that he could never necessarily know my experience as a black male, but in the light of all that's going on, as a white male, he understands that he needs to be an ally. He expressed that desire to me, and so I thought it was appropriate to show that gesture of support."

    Though Jenkins' demonstration has not garnered the mainstream national attention of some of the other high profile athletes who have sat or knelt during the anthem, he has been among the most outspoken. The Pro Bowl safety is involved in various social programs and has even spoken to Congress about social injustice in the United States.

    "The biggest thing is to continue to call attention to the things in this country I think everybody after the past week has been focusing on," Jenkins said.

    "If we want to eradicate hate from our country, drawing attention to not only the hate itself, but the products of those hates. If you look at the long history of our country, and how especially in our justice system we talk about police and community engagement - the duality of our justice system right now, communities of low income and communities with color have completely different interactions with the justice system than that of our counterparts - and in the light of everything that's happening, just continuing that discussion."

    Jenkins wasn't the only of Long's teammates to show respect for the stance he took. Eagles cornerback Ron Brooks, who himself knelt for the anthem on Thursday, also took notice that another person was using their platform to further the cause.

    Brooks didn't get too caught up in the fact that Long is white and anthem demonstrators have been predominantly black. Anybody who's willing to take a stand is needed.

    "I'm not too concerned about whether it be a white person, black person, they could be Anglo-Saxon, whatever race, it doesn't matter," Brooks said. "Just him showing his support - I think a lot more people need to action and not just be quiet and let things go to the wayside.

    "I admire Chris for standing up for something and show support for injustices that are going on. Whether the person was Malcolm, or whether the person had been [Carson Wentz] or anyone else, just that support and speaking up and using your platform."