“First Take” co-host Max Kellerman added his voice to the debate about social-justice activism in the NFL on Thursday, calling it a “disgrace” and “embarrassing” that no white NFL players had supported their black teammates in their national anthem protests. To drive home his point, he used the example of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese in 1947, when Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.
“And Pee Wee Reese, as they’re booing Jackie Robinson and all this, walks over to Jackie Robinson and puts his arm around him saying: ‘See this guy? He’s with me and I’m with him, and anything you’re saying about him you’re saying to me, too,’ ” Kellerman said. “There’s not one Pee Wee Reese in the NFL?”
There’s at least one: On Thursday night, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long kept his hand on teammate Malcolm Jenkins’s back as Jenkins raised his fist during the national anthem ahead of their preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say you need white athletes to get involved in the anthem protests,” Long said afterward, per ESPN. “I’ve said before I’ll never kneel for an anthem, because the flag means something different for 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. So my thing is, Malcolm is a leader, and I’m here to show support as a white athlete.”
Kellerman wasn’t the only one to call out the NFL’s white players. Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett had a similar sentiment earlier this week.
“It would take a white player to really get things changed,” Bennett said on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Wednesday, “because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it, it would change the whole conversation. Because you bring somebody who doesn’t really have to be a part of the conversation, making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a big jump.”
Long said he drew inspiration from those who stood up to the white supremacists who last weekend marched on Charlottesville, his home town. Especially Heather Heyer, who was killed Saturday when an alleged white nationalist plowed his car into a crowd.
“I was inspired by a lot of the allies that were there to stand up against hate in my home town, and I wasn’t able to be there to protest or to stand up against hate. People like Heather Heyer gave their lives for that, and I was inspired by that,” he said. “So it’s just telling Malcolm, I am here for you, and I think it’s a good time for people who look like me to be here for people fighting for equality.”
Jenkins, who started raising his fist during the anthem last season and reportedly will continue doing so in 2017, said Long talked with him about his plan — and the reasons behind it — before the game.
“I think it is important to show, especially for a white male to show, that although these problems don’t necessarily affect you, you can still see the significance in it, you can still be in support of your brothers that are going through it,” Jenkins said.