When it comes to New York Jets players kneeling during the national anthem, team chairman Christopher Johnson is a standup guy.
Johnson said the team wouldn’t fine any player for protesting, despite a new NFL owner-approved measure that enables teams to do so, according to reports.
Wednesday’s rule change says players must stand for the anthem or stay off the field. If any player kneels, his team would face a league fine. Teams can discipline individual players.
“As I have in the past, I will support our players wherever we land as a team,” Johnson said in a statement, according to the New York Post. “Our focus is not on imposing any Club rules, fines, or restrictions. Instead we will continue to work closely with our players to constructively advance social justice issues that are important to us. I remain extremely proud of how we demonstrated unity last season as well as our players’ commitment to strengthening our communities.”
Johnson elaborated on his pledge not to fine players in an interview with Newsday.
“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” he said. “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 they stand? Of course. But I understand if they feel the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines.”
Johnson’s stance could get interesting in the team’s hierarchy. He has been designated as the acting owner while his brother, team owner Woody Johnson, serves as President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, CBS Sports pointed out.
Trump, who has repeatedly criticized demonstrating players, applauded the new NFL edict. “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing,” he said.
The NFL Players Association criticized the league for failing to consult the union before the change, and vowed to carefully review the new policy.