By Mike Wilcox
While all eyes were on Justin Timberlake, a slew of new and clever commercials, Tom Brady and the Philadelphia Eagles’ punishing running game, one Eagle defensive player was risking life and limb for no pay.
That’s right, 10-year defensive lineman Chris Long had decided back in October when National Anthem protests became all the rage in the NFL, he was going to put his money where others chose to protest. His entire 2017 season, which in the Eagles’ case, ran through Feb. 4 when they won the Super Bowl, was going to be donated to organizations that promote educational equality in the three cities he has played for in his career: Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis.
Although a steady and reliable defensive end, Long’s career has been spent in the trenches trying to neutralize offensive linemen so he can reach the quarterback for a sack or stop a running back from gaining more than three yards. You didn’t hear his name called much by Al Michaels or Chris Collingsworth on the Super Bowl broadcast, but in the aforementioned cities he is nothing short of a hero.
Long’s $1-million salary, not much by NFL standards, is the perfect antidote to all the hysteria over greedy, unpatriotic athletes failing to stand for the Anthem. Long decided to protest not by kneeling, but by donating to the causes supposedly dear to minority athletes.
It would have been nice had other athletes followed his cue, but to date he is the only one to contribute his entire year’s pay. I believe he is the only football athlete to contribute $1 million period, despite many of his peers boasting salaries 10 and 20 times that of Long.
In so doing he created the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign, which asked people from the three cities to make matching gifts. Long handed out an additional $50,000 to St. Louis because it garnered the most pledges. Before Pledge 10, his weekly paychecks were going to Charlottesville, Va., where riots and deaths had occurred when ultra-left-wingers clashed with white supremacists. Long, a University of Virginia graduate, was torn apart emotionally when the city was crucified for allowing the riots to occur.
“The effect of working for a common goal is why I played my 10th season in the NFL for free and challenged fans to get involved, “ said Long. “This is the power of sports in action.”
Now that the Super Bowl hype is gone and the Eagles have taken home the Lombardi, one storyline out of the hundreds presented in the pre-game roll-up will remain in my mind as one of the most selfless gestures ever made.
That is Long’s decision to protest injustice in a different way: no kneeling, fists in the air or verbal tirades, just money where it is needed most. God bless him and his campaign to make education equal for all.