The NFL’s owners approved new rules around protesting during the national anthem Wednesday, deciding that players could stay in the locker room if they did not want to participate in the singing of the anthem. But, if they kneeled on the field, there could potentially be penalties to the team, and fines directed at the players and the organization. New York Jets chairman and co-owner Christopher Johnson rejects making his players pay for protesting against police brutality.
“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules. If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”
The NFL owners, however, did not consult the NFLPA on the matter. It makes things even more complicated.
Even with his vote to pass the new rule, Johnson wants to work with the players on the issue, and seems empathetic to their cause. “Even without those fines, this is going to be tough on the players,” he said. “I want a chance to speak with the coaches and other players to get feedback on this policy and to build on the good work and momentum that we have built up on these issues of social justice, on legislation, and all the things that we can do.”