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May 07, 2018

Eagles' Chris Long stirs moral debate after calling John Lennon 'a bad guy'

Enduring fame has a way of blinding us well before we even think to turn a blind eye. It's received wisdom. 

In celebrities, that hagiography privileges complexity. Mystique is actively enhanced by troubling biographical details we would never excuse in a suspect whose mugshot pops up on the 11 o'clock news.

Beatles legend John Lennon's history of violence against women — and against his own son, Julian — isn't mere speculation about the checkered past of a revolutionary force in modern music. They're facts that Lennon and those close to him spoke candidly about during his own lifetime.

In 1980, the same year Lennon was assassinated, the world-renowned pacifist told Playboy he was brutal with his first wife, Cynthia Powell.

All that "I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved" was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically – any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything's the opposite. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am not violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.

Dead at 40 years old, Lennon never got that chance. He may have lived to see the emergence of the #MeToo movement, but it's clear that far lesser musical talents — people like Chris Brown — struggle to rebound from their public image as abusers in this day and age. In another time, Lennon may not have been hailed as the hero he's become in popular culture.

On a lazy Sunday with no football to play, Eagles defensive end Chris Long fielded a prompt on Twitter from @OhEmGee: "Quote this with a controversial yet unproblematic opinion you have." 

That sounds right up Long's alley. Regardless of what Eagles fans and other sports junkies think, Long refuses to abdicate the platform his position has given him in the larger cultural conversation. 

Is this controversial and unproblematic? Does it infuriate people despite its merits? Based on the reactions, yes. 

Let's take a look. 

Long, for what it's worth, said it's easier for him to look at Lennon objectively because he's not much of a Beatles fan. It may be simplistic to reduce Lennon to a "bad guy," but sometimes the further removed we become from history, the less of a challenge it is to dissect influential figures from a neutral perspective.