PHILADELPHIA - Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long put his left arm around the shoulder of Malcolm Jenkins as Jenkins raised his fist during the national anthem Thursday to protest racial injustice in the United States.
Jenkins has been raising his fist during the anthem since the second game of the season in 2016. But this was the first time that a white teammate openly supported him.
"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," Long said after the Eagles' 20-16 preseason win over Buffalo.
In addition, cornerback Ron Brooks kneeled during the national anthem, joining a handful of NFL players to do so, such as quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Seattle's Michael Bennett and Oakland's Marshawn Lynch.
Jenkins said he appreciated Long's gesture.
"I think it is important to show, especially for a white male, that although these problems don’t necessarily affect you, you can still see the significance in it," Jenkins said. "You can still be in support of your brothers that are going through it, that are trying to use that platform.
"With all the things going on in the country, I think it’s important to show that unity and that support. I think it just continues to draw even more attention and pull at people’s conscience to feel more responsible in their role for how our country is right now and how each individual is responsible."
Long said he wanted to show his support after a white nationalist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent, leading to the death of a woman who was run over by a neo-Nazi supporter.
Long lived in Charlottesville and attended college at the University of Virginia. Both he and Jenkins were outspoken against President Donald Trump's reaction to the events as he blamed both sides for the violence.
"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.
Jenkins said Long told him before the game that he wanted to do something to show support. And Jenkins said he was honored.
"I asked a couple questions, mainly what message was he trying to get across," Jenkins said. "And that message was that more white men should feel the need, especially after what recently transpired in Charlottesville. Just being able to stand alongside a teammate or a brother and say, ‘I support you,’ goes a long way."
As for Brooks, a Buffalo-area TV cameraman caught him on the sideline kneeling behind his teammates. Brooks wasn't dressed in uniform Thursday because of a hamstring injury. He and the other players sitting out were dressed in black warmups.
Jenkins said he wasn't aware of Brooks' action until he was told after the game. But Jenkins wasn't surprised because Brooks raised his fist with Jenkins last season until Brooks suffered a season-ending injury.
"He’s somebody who, although he didn’t have the same voice that I do and same platform, he’s using his to draw attention to [racial injustice]," Jenkins said. "He’s somebody who has been supportive of me. He went along with me last year on a lot of [talks] with the police. So he’s done some of the work on the back end as well. Obviously, without the big name, some of that has gone under the radar. But he’s also been somebody who’s been searching for a way to use his influence and platform to effect change."
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl
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