MESSIER: The Long way

Ahead of his second Super Bowl appearance, Virginia football alumnus Chris Long still supports the underdog

sp-ChrisLong-CourtesyWikimediaCommons

Defensive end Chris Long played for Virginia football from 2004 to 2007.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Monday, just less than a week before the Super Bowl, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end and Virginia football alumnus Chris Long generated media buzz following his answer to a question during Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” podcast.

“If you guys win the Super Bowl, are you going to the White House?” PFT Commenter, one of the program’s hosts, asked.

“No, I’m not going to the White House,” Long said. “Are you kidding me?”

When Long earned a Super Bowl title with the New England Patriots last year, he skipped the team’s White House visit with President Donald Trump, citing that he wouldn’t want his son to question his decision to go in the future.

Throughout the day Monday, numerous articles were published, headlining Long’s answer to a simple question. The defensive end was frequently mentioned on Twitter by both pleased and angry fans, many of who used the age-old “stick to sports” mantra.

After quickly addressing the media uproar, Long’s Twitter feed shifted gears. The defensive end retweeted an article detailing how Independence Blue Cross has sponsored underdog masks for Eagles fans, which Long and teammate, offensive tackle Lane Johnson, made popular during the playoffs. Briefly mentioned at the conclusion of that article is that Independence also donated $10,000 to the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, a fundraising campaign launched by Long and Johnson.

The article encapsulates just what Long has always been to each community he has been a part of — an uplifting spirit, an ambassador and a humble benefactor. And Long still manages to bring that presence back to where it all started — Charlottesville.

Long was particularly affected by the Unite the Right rally and the events that occurred in his hometown on Aug. 11 and 12. Long once again refused to “stick to sports,” and publicly spoke out against the rally. Less than a week after the rally, when Long’s teammate, safety Malcolm Jenkins, protested the national anthem by raising his fist, Long draped his arm around the Eagles safety — showing that he stands with him. 

Long backed his words and gestures with his actions. In his 10th NFL season, he donated his first six game paychecks to fund scholarships for Central Virginia Boys & Girls Club kids to attend his former school, St. Anne’s Belfield, from sixth grade to high school graduation. But that wasn’t enough for Long. He then donated the remainder of his 10 regular season game paychecks to “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow,” an initiative through Long’s foundation that aims for equal educational opportunities. Through the campaign, Long and his foundation raised over $1.3 million towards educational opportunity and equity programs.

Along with the “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow” general fund, the fundraising campaign established three different funds — in St. Louis, New England and Philadelphia — encouraging outside donors to support each community in which Long played on an NFL team. 

Long has always shown his support for the underdog. Long and Johnson capitalized on their underdog mask phenomenon, creating dog mask t-shirts and selling them, with 100 percent of the shirt’s proceeds going towards Philadelphia schools. When the NFL began selling dog mask t-shirts as well, Long persuaded the league to do the same with the sale of its shirts.

But Long’s love of the underdog doesn’t just extend to Charlottesville, or the cities where he’s played in the NFL. He has taken his fight for the underdog international with his charity, Waterboys, which has combated water scarcity in east Africa by supporting sustainable clean water wells in the region. So far, the organization has raised over $1.3 million dollars and built 24 wells.

As for the love of his own country, Long has also long been a supporter of the military. The Chris Long Foundation has donated to several organizations that support veterans, and has even hosted a holiday dinner for active duty military and their families.

Long’s actions and unwavering mission to better each community that he becomes a part of reveal much more about his character than one — or two — visits to the White House might show. Aside from the fact that Long will soon appear in his second-consecutive Super Bowl, his humble commitment to the many communities that he has been apart of is more than enough for the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville community to be proud of.

Whether or not you bet that Long wins the Super Bowl title Sunday, you can surely bet that he will still be supporting the underdog — it’s the Long way.

Mariel Messier was the 128th Sports Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at mtm7td@virginia.edu or on Twitter at @MtMess.

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