Chris Long becomes first white NFL player to participate in national anthem protest

With Long's arm around his shoulder, Malcolm Jenkins raises his fist during the national anthem before an NFL preseason game in Philadelphia on Thursday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

On Thursday, Chris Long became the first white NFL player to get involved in a national anthem protest.

Before a preseason game in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Eagles defensive end put his arm around safety Malcolm Jenkins while Jenkins raised his fist.

Long’s gesture came a day after Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett urged white athletes to get involved.

Bennett, who has been sitting during anthems, said on SportsCenter that that “it would take a white player to really get things changed.”

“It would change the whole conversation,” he added. “Because when you bring somebody who doesn’t have to be a part of [the] conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump.”

After Thursday’s game, Long — a native of Charlottesville, Virginia, site of a white supremacist rally last weekend that left a counter-protester dead and 19 others injured — told reporters that “it’s been a hard week for everybody… It’s not just a hard week for someone being from Charlottesville. It’s a tough week for America.”

“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,” Long added. “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.”

Last Sunday — the day after the white supremacist rally turned deadly — Long told the Philadelphia Daily News that what was happening in Charlottesville made him angry.

“I don’t know if that’s what these people are trying to incite, but it’s working. It pisses you off,” he said, before going on to criticize President Trump’s defense of the white supremacists who had gathered in Charlottesville.

“I wish he’d categorically spoken out against white supremacy,” Long said.

In a statement released last week, Jenkins said that he plans to raise his fist during anthems this season to protest the mass incarceration of people of color.

“Last season, I raised my fist as a sign of solidarity to support people, especially people of color, who were and are still unjustly losing their lives at the hands of officers with little to no consequence,” he said. “After spending time with police officers on ride-alongs, meeting with politicians on the state and federal level and grass roots organizations fighting for human rights, it’s clear that our criminal justice system is still crippling communities of color through mass incarceration.”

While Long is the first white NFL player to participate in an anthem protest, white athletes in the WNBA and professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe have previously done so.

Meanwhile, the NFL player best known for protesting the national anthem — quarterback Colin Kaepernick — remains unsigned.