“How can you get mad at me when I’m trying to look out for the welfare of my community?”
For University of Virginia alumnus and two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Long, “sticking to sports” just isn’t an option. On April 27, Long joined athletics director Carla Williams, former basketball player Akil Mitchell, and African American and African Studies and History professor Claudrena Harold for a panel held at UVA focusing on athletics and race. The idea for the panel stemmed from the horrific events of August 11-12.
Long is no stranger to speaking his voice and using his platform to support his community. In St. Louis, Long and then-Rams teammate William Hayes spent a night homeless, in an effort to gain perspective and shed light on the issue of homelessness. He donated this entire season’s paychecks in the name of educational equity. And of course, there’s The Waterboys initiative to bring sustainable well water to east African communities.
But being vocal about the issues that matter in today’s society, whether in politics or beyond, is to some degree, as Long mentions, a “risk/reward” calculation. There’s been no lack of criticism on Twitter and other social media platforms renowned for their promotion of intellectually stimulating conversations.
“Everybody wants us as athletes to own our communities and to own our responsibility as role models. All I heard growing up was, we’re role models...If we’re role models, we’re going to tackle real issues. We don’t just do turkey drives.”
As a white male, Long recognizes the privilege associated with that. He told the audience a story of getting pulled over at 16 by a police officer and immediately jumping out of his pick-up truck to get his license out of his bag in the bed of the truck.
He paused at this point of the story just to shake his head. If that were to happen today, he said, still shaking his head, “it’s over.”
The clip below from the Athletics and Race panel at UVA shows Chris Long’s full thoughts on “sticking to sports.”