New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty and tight end Martellus Bennett made a statement following the national anthem Sunday night by raising their fists following its conclusion.
The silent protest comes on the heels of controversy sparked by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for the national anthem before games.
Patriots defensive end Chris Long gave a long, thoughtful answer to a question on the topic Tuesday on ESPN Radio’s “Rusillo and Kanell” that’s worth reading or hearing. Here’s the full quote.
“I’ve had a lot of thoughts about it. It’s hard, because you want to talk to the media. You want to say something about it, but as you know with the media, it’s a long conversation, and if you talk about it for two minutes, they might take 10, 15 seconds out of your quote and take you out of context and run with the narrative. But I’ll make it pretty clear: I support my peers in exercising their right to protest.
“This is a wonderful country, and I think everybody agrees on that. There are things that in our country that can improve, and I don’t think that by acknowledging as a white male that America isn’t the same for me maybe as it is for everybody, the same great place, that we’re complicit in the problem or that we’re saying America isn’t a great place. If we’re saying there are incidents of oppression, systematically or individually in this country, I don’t think saying, ‘Well in Country X, Y or Z it’s 10 times worse,’ is making things any better. I think that may be true, but why can’t we improve?
“I play in a league that’s 70 percent black, and my peers, guys that I come to work with, guys that I respect, who are very socially aware, intellectual guys, if they identify something that they think is worth putting their reputations on the line, creating controversy, I’m going to listen to those guys.
“And I respect the anthem, I would never kneel for it, and we all come from different walks of life, and we think differently about the anthem and the flag and what that means. But I think you can respect and find a lot of truth in what these guys are talking about and not kneel. Those aren’t mutually exclusive ideas.
“It’s been complicated. It’s brought out a lot of ‘well, but.’ It’s brought out a lot of what we as fans and players think about the anthem, a lot of strong feelings on both sides. But I think we can all agree we love our vets, we love the vast majority of our officers of law enforcement, but they’re human beings too, and there are isolated incidents that need to be better. I think all that guys are saying is, ‘Listen, most people might be great cops, great people that protect our community, but when there are injustices, let’s find justice for those situations.’
“I respect my peers, I respect Colin. Colin really put his reputation on the line, and he’s taking a beating. He’s also had support. I don’t think he did it for publicity. I’m just going to listen to my peers, because I respect those guys, and I can’t put myself in their shoes.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images