Why Chris Long Put Arm Around Malcolm Jenkins During National Anthem Protest

Chris Long has been outspoken about the recent events in his hometown of Charlottesville, Va., and on Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles defensive end turned his words into actions.

Long placed his hand on teammate Malcolm Jenkins’ back throughout “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Philadelphia’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. It was a show of support by Long, as Jenkins, who is black, raised a fist over his head during the national anthem, just as the Eagles safety did for all but one game last season.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say you need white athletes to get involved in the anthem protests,” Long said, per ESPN.com. “I’ve said before I’ll never kneel for an anthem, because the flag means something different for everybody in this country, but I support my peers. And 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. So my thing is, Malcolm is a leader, and I’m here to show support as a white athlete.”

National anthem protests have been a major topic across the NFL dating back to last season, when quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted not to stand during the anthem as a way of protesting the social inequality that exists across the United States. Many players, including Jenkins, have followed Kaepernick’s lead by protesting in some way, but Long’s gesture is significant in that it answers the call for white athletes to join black athletes in fighting for equality.

“I was inspired by a lot of the allies that were there (in Charlottesville) 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. according to ESPN.com. “People like Heather Heyer gave their lives for that, and I was inspired by that. So it’s just telling Malcolm, I am here for you, and I think it’s a good time for people who look like me to be here for people fighting for equality.”

Long and Jenkins hugged at the conclusion of Thursday’s national anthem, and Jenkins pointed out the importance of his teammate’s support after the Eagles’ 20-16 win at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I think it is important to show, especially for a white male to show, that although these problems don’t necessarily affect you, you can still see the significance in it, you can still be in support of your brothers that are going through it,” Jenkins said, per ESPN.com.

Long approached Jenkins before the game about his desire to show support.

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