Eagles’ Chris Long Joins Malcolm Jenkins as N.F.L. Anthem Protests Continue
If you thought the dispute over N.F.L. players protesting during the national anthem ended last season, think again.
It’s early in the preseason, but several players have already used the anthem to make a statement, and signs are the story is not going away anytime soon. And the related controversy over Colin Kaepernick’s job status is also still brewing.
In the latest incident, Eagles defensive end Chris Long, who grew up in Charlottesville, Va., put his arm around his teammate Malcolm Jenkins, while Jenkins raised his fist during the anthem at a preseason game in Philadelphia on Thursday night. Jenkins did the same thing last season.
“I think it’s a good time for people that look like me to be there for people that are fighting for equality,” Long, who is white, told reporters.
Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the issue on Monday. “The national anthem is a special moment to me,” he said. “It’s a point of pride. That is a really important moment. But we also have to understand the other side that people do have rights and we want to respect those.”
The latest protests have been driven at least in part by the deadly violence in Charlottesville.
At least two prominent players have sat during the anthem this preseason: Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett on Sunday and Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, who has returned to the league this year after retirement, on Saturday.
“Charlottesville was the tipping point for me,” Bennett told CNN. “To see so much hate. There was no way I could go out there and hide behind the game.” Bennett also called for white players to join the protests: “It would take a white player to really get things changed.”
When asked to “address the elephant in the room,” Lynch told reporters, “I think that elephant just left the room because a little mouse ran in here.” He mostly ducked other questions on the matter.
As for Kaepernick, he remains without a job even though several teams are in need of quarterbacks. Many teams seem to be looking elsewhere because of his protests during the anthem last season, which were in response to police brutality and racial oppression.
But just about anytime a quarterback has a bad game or gets injured, Kaepernick’s name comes up.
Preseason has only barely started; more and expanded protests may well emerge. The regular season begins Sept. 7.