FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive end Chris Long was a guest on ESPN Radio's "Russillo & Kannell" program on Tuesday, touching on a number of topics, including his thoughts on one of the hot-button topics in the NFL this season -- Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem.
"I've had a lot of thoughts about it, and it's hard, because you want to talk to the media, you want to say something about it. As you know with the media, it's a long conversation and if you talk about it for a few minutes, they might take 10-15 seconds out of your quote and take you out of context, and run with the narrative.
"But I'll make it pretty clear: I support my peers in exercising their right to protest. This is a wonderful country, and I think everyone agrees on that, but there are things in our country that can improve. I don't think that by acknowledging as a white male that America isn't the same for me, maybe, as it is for everybody, the same great place, that we're complicit in the problem or that we're saying America isn't a great place.
"If we're saying there are incidents of oppression in this country, systematically or individually in this country, I don't think saying, 'Well, in country X, Y or Z it's 10 times worse' is making things any better. I think that may be true, but why can't we improve?
"I play in a league that's 70 percent black and my peers, guys I come to work with, guys I respect who are very socially aware and are intellectual guys, if they identify something that they think is worth putting their reputations on the line, creating controversy, I'm going to listen to those guys.
"And I respect the anthem. I would never kneel for it. We all come from different walks of life and think differently about the anthem and the flag and what that means. But I think you can respect and find a lot of truth in what these guys are talking about, and not kneel. Those aren't mutually exclusive ideas.
"Listen, it's been complicated. It's brought out a lot of what we as fans and players think about the anthem; a lot of strong feelings on both sides. But I think we can all agree we love our vets. We love the vast majority of officers of law enforcement. But they are human beings too and there are isolated incidents that need to be better and I think all guys are saying is 'Listen, most people might be great cops, great people that protect our communities, but when there are injustices, let's find justice for those situations.'
"I respect my peers, I respect Colin. Colin has really put his reputation on the line. He's taken a beating. He's also had support. I don't think he did it for publicity.
"And listen, I'm just going to listen to my peers because I respect those guys, and I can't put myself in their shoes."
Long was then asked a follow-up question on whether the Patriots have had meetings on how to handle the national anthem.
"A lot of guys in the league talked about how we were going to address it. I think the depth of the conversation, from guys from all walks of life and all ethnicities, shows that guys really are thoughtful about this thing," Long said on the program.
"It's not just like 'We're just going to do 'X' and 'Y'. There are differing opinions about the details of how you want to do it, but at the end of the day I'm proud of my teammates for standing up for what they believe in. And at the end of the day, I don't think they've articulated [how] they have the utmost respect for the men and women of our military.
"I think one of my good friends, Nate Boyer, who was a green beret, went and stood with Colin and said 'Hey, I wish you would feel the same way I do about the flag and about the anthem, and I will stand here with you until you feel like you can stand.' I thought that was powerful and coming from a guy who certainly could be very upset about Colin's protest. He had an open mind and I think that's the biggest thing. Just have an open mind.
"We're concerned about the feelings of our vets, and I certainly am, but let's treat our vets better on a daily basis. Why aren't we outraged about the lack of benefits they get? How do we treat our vets when they come home? We should be outraged about those things on a daily basis.
"I think when an African-American man makes a stand on something like that, then we get upset on behalf of those great men and women. I think we need to just think about our patriotism in general as a country."