There are charitable people and then there is Chris Long.
The Philadelphia Eagles defensive end announced he would donate his entire 2017 base salary – that’s $1 million – to benefit educational charities. The Charlottesville, Virginia native originally planned to donate his salary from just his first six games to fund scholarships at St. Anne’s-Belfield School, a private middle and high school in his hometown. As the donations continued to pile up, however, Long realized the impact he could have and opted, essentially, to play for free.
Long released a statement regarding the decision:
This season I have made the decision to give all my game earnings to help promote educational equity and opportunity for underserved youth. I already committed my first six game checks to fund scholarships in my hometown of Charlottesville, VA. Now, I have made the pledge to give my last 10 game checks to organizations focused on making learning and college a reality for kids in the three cities that have given me so much throughout my career – Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis.
Long’s decision originally stemmed from his desire to start a positive movement in Charlottesville in the immediate aftermath of the white supremacists who marched at the University of Virginia in August, 2017.
“It’s always been important to him, and him and his wife had already been sending scholarships to Charlottesville for about six years,” Nicole Woodie, who manages The Chris Long Foundation, told CBSSports.com. “With the current state of our nation and what Chris and his wife, Megan, feel strongly about, he just felt more compelled to be a little more public with his giving.”
The donations from Long, as well as donations from fans across the country, helped raise over $1.3 million in educational opportunities, a movement that Long called “the power of sports in action.”
Long, who was part of the Patriots’ championship team in 2017, started his own foundation in 2015, supporting causes which ensure access to clean water, fighting homelessness, supporting veterans and helping children in need.
The ten-year defensive veteran has been outspoken throughout his career regarding a handful of different initiatives, but he sparked headlines this season when he put his arm around Eagles teammate Maclolm Jenkins, who raised his fist during an anthem protest. Long also declined to visit the White House after the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory.
“Some people are tired of hearing me tweet because they want me to stick to football but I like to use social media like I was a regular guy because I think I am,” Long told NBC Sports Philadelphia in August. “I don’t tell people to stick to their job when they want to talk politics.”
Long’s paycheck donations were a major storyline throughout his season, but it’s far from the first time he’s exercised his charitable muscles. His journey began after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2013 and, after seeing the level of poverty outside the United States decided, simply, to do something about it.
He started working with the Waterboys, an organization that brings NFL players together with fans to help provided water wells in east Africa, in 2015 and, later that year, was award the Walter Payton Man of the Year. Long also previously met with NFL owners and commissioner Roger Goddell about ways for the league to help player’s social causes and initiatives earlier this season.
Long signed a two-year contract with the Eagles in spring of 2017 and, in addition to his base salary, received a signing bonus of $750,000. If he’s on the roster again next year, he will earn a $1 million base salary, per reports, with a $1.25 million roster bonus. Long’s most recent net worth, in 2014, was a reported $28 million.
This year’s donations were the first time Long has made the numbers public and while some may question the decision, the Eagles defensive star is certain he’s doing something for good. “With everything that went down, a lot of talk about players improving their community and promoting diversity and equality, some questions were, ‘What are you actually doing?” he told the News Journal in October. “And so, this is what I’m doing, and hopefully, it’s something we can continue to be involved in.”