Chris Long puts his money where his mouth is
Woke Eagles defensive end doubles down with his paychecks, focuses on education
PHILADELPHIA — We know where Chris Long stands. Literally.
As the national anthem played Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field, Long — the veteran Philadelphia Eagles defensive end, and one of the most woke white dudes you’ll ever meet — was in a familiar position, his right hand over his heart and his left one on safety Malcolm Jenkins’ back. Since August, Long has publicly supported Jenkins, who in 2016 began raising a fist during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest racial inequality in the U.S.
On the divisive issue of protests during the anthem, Long was the first white player to show solidarity with African-American players who began demonstrating after then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ignited the movement last season. And Long, as the saying goes, also has put his money where his mouth is.
Besides backing Jenkins, a leader among NFL players active in the new fight for civil rights, and speaking out on the violence in Long’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, that erupted after multiple white supremacist rallies in September, Long stunned many NFL observers by committing his entire salary this season to charities. After having already used his first six game checks to provide two scholarships for students at the Charlottesville high school for which he starred, St. Anne’s-Belfield, Long doubled down: He’ll use the rest to launch his Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign.
Long definitely has his head and wallet in the right place.
“I’m not the first person to donate money to a cause,” said Long, who was credited with two solo tackles and two quarterback hits in the Eagles’ 34-24 victory over the Washington Redskins.
“But at the end of the day, what may give it a little more meaning, maybe for some people, is that it’s coming out of something I love: playing football. At the end of the day, that’s what my platform is for. It allows me to inspire more people. And we can all use some positivity right now.”
That’s some truth right there.
Long signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Eagles in the offseason after earning a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots last season. His deal includes a $500,000 bonus and $1.5 million in guarantees. This season, his base salary is $1 million.
Long, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long, welcomes donations to his foundation. He’s determined to provide equal education opportunities. Actually, it’s more like his mission. “If we treated education and shortcomings in our educational system as an emergency, if we rallied behind that the way we do like an emergency or a disaster, which is what it is in a lot of ways, we’d be a lot better off,” he said.
The plan is for Long’s foundation to partner with four organizations that are focused on making education readily available to underserved youths. Comprehensive student support will also be part of the program.
During his NFL career, Long has played in St. Louis; Foxborough, Massachusetts; and Philadelphia. The organizations that will implement Long’s strategy are based in those communities. Whichever city raises the most money during the season will receive an additional $50,000 donation.
In the least surprising development of the turbulent NFL season, Long has been attacked on social media for, among other things, his support of Jenkins. And Long hasn’t retreated. Not one step.
“There are a lot of people who disagree with me on a lot of the things that I believe,” Long said. “I’ve definitely spent a lot of time on social media arguing with people. But some of the people that I’m often arguing with are coming around and saying, ‘Hey, education, that’s a good thing we can all agree on.’ I still believe all the things I believe. But we can all agree, or at least we all should be able to agree, that education is a great vehicle to improve our country.”
Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith is totally with that.
Smith, who’s also an activist-player, is among many in the Eagles locker room who admire Long for going all in with his paychecks.
“What he’s done, what he’s doing, it says a lot about him,” Smith said. “The type of person he is, the type of man he is, he’s willing to sacrifice his salary to help other people.
“He’s had a good career. He’s doing well financially because of it. But it still says a lot. When he makes a commitment like that to give back, you have to respect it.”
As owners and players continue to discuss ways to bolster African-American communities and, it is hoped, improve race relations, Long hopes that the league will set aside money to improve equal opportunity to education.
“Whenever there’s some sort of resolution, I hope the league becomes more involved in players’ causes with social activism,” Long said. “Education is a big part of the fight for equality. And it’s not just equality across racial lines.
“There’s also [the need for] equality between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. A lot of times, educational opportunity is the best way to break that cycle. Hopefully, the NFL can get behind something like that.”
And if the league does, we know there’s at least one player who will stand with it.