Chris Long wrapped his left arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who continued to raise his right fist in protest over racial injustice, during the national anthem before the Eagles' preseason game against the Bills on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Jenkins has been raising his fist since the second game of last season. He issued a statement before last week's preseason opener that said he would continue the act throughout this year. Other NFL players, such as the Seahawks' Michael Bennett and the Raiders' Marshawn Lynch, have sat during the anthem this preseason.
Bennett recently said that the cause would have a greater impact if white players also participated. Long, who is white, has been outspoken since the events in Charlottesville, Va., this past week. The Eagles defensive end said that he had told Jenkins of his plans to make a gesture before the game.
"I just told Malcolm, 'I'm here for you,'" Long said afterward. "I think it's a good time for people that look like me to be here for people that are fighting for equality."
Said Jenkins: "This is a moment in time where he feels the need to kind of take that step and lead, and I appreciate that."
Long considers Charlottesville his hometown — he also went to the University of Virginia — and he was critical of the white nationalists who gathered to protest the removal of the General Robert E. Lee statue. He and Jenkins also lambasted President Trump after he cited "both sides" as being at fault in the violence that eventually led to the death of a counter-protester.
"It's been a hard week for everybody," Long said. "I think it's not just a hard week for someone being from Charlottesville. It's a tough week for America. I've heard a lot of people say, 'You need white athletes to get involved in the anthem protest.' I've said before that I'll never kneel for an anthem because the flag means something different to 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. My thing is Malcolm's a leader and I'm here to show support as a white athlete."
Last year, Colin Kaepernick garnered national attention when he chose to kneel during the anthem. The ex-49ers quarterback, who isn't on an NFL roster now, was responding, in part, to cases of police brutality against men of color throughout America.
Jenkins would follow his lead, although the Eagles safety opted for another image. Cornerback Ron Brooks, defensive end Steven Means, and former Eagles defensive end Marcus Smith – all of whom are black — joined their teammate by also lifting their fists during the team's road opener in Chicago against the Bears.
Brooks was eventually the only one to continue raising his first with Jenkins, but he suffered a season-ending injury in October. He didn't dress in uniform on Thursday night because of a hamstring injury, but he knelt during the anthem. Brooks was unavailable for comment after the game.
The Eagles had discussed raising their fists collectively as a team before the Bears game, but some players were uncomfortable with the idea. A few white players had discussed possibly joining Jenkins as a sign of solidarity, but those plans were ultimately scrapped.
"Stepping out in front of all those people and the obvious attention that is going to be brought to it is not an easy thing to do," Jenkins said. "I think looking at the atmosphere last year compared to this year, so much has transpired and in a negative direction that I think the stakes are almost higher now.
"And I think especially after last week and all that's happening — for Chris, in particular, that being his hometown and something that hit home. He was one of those original guys that was in that conversation with players around the league last year, obviously he was on a different team, and so he was very familiar with my thoughts and what I was doing.
"So I think for him this was that opportunity to use his platform in a way that was real to him and genuine."
After Long spoke with reporters, he sat alone at the Lincoln Financial Field locker stall he shared with defensive tackle Gabe Wright. His teammate, before parting for the night, said to Long: "I'm honored to have shared a locker with you."