A white NFL player launched an indirect attack against conservative ranter Tomi Lahren as he stood up to defend Colin Kaepernick and other football players protesting the national anthem.
Chris Long, a defensive lineman for the New England Patriots, said he’s given the protests a lot of thought — and he told ESPN Radio that he backed his teammates Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett and other players for not standing during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“I’ll make it pretty clear: I support my peers in exercising their right to protest,” Long said.
“This is a wonderful country, and I think everybody agrees on that,” Long continued. “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.”
He then swatted away arguments made by Lahren and others who suggest Kaepernick and other protesters, including professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe, wouldn’t even be able to express themselves in many other counties.
“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,” Long said. “I think that may be true, but why can’t we improve?”
Long expressed admiration for the players who are exercising their First Amendment rights to highlight systemic racism in the U.S. — even if he has decided not to join their on-field protest.
“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 [for], creating controversy, I’m going to listen to those guys,” Long said. “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.”
He said the protests have opened an important debate, but he found their demonstrations to be patriotic in their own way.
“It’s been complicated,” Long said. “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.'”
He singled out Kaepernick for admiration, saying he engaged — and then explained — his silent protest at great personal risk.
“I respect my peers, I respect Colin,” Long said. “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.”
My thoughts (if you care… if you don't, don't click) on my peers addressing social issues. 24 minute mark. https://t.co/RZV6rMMMDq
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) September 13, 2016