New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson has said he will accept any NFL fines his team incurs by allowing players to kneel during the national anthem.
“On Wednesday, league owners approved the mandate that requires players to stand if they’re on the field or stay in the locker room during the anthem,” reports CBS News. Players have the option, per the mandate, to stand for the anthem on the field or to remain in the locker room until the anthem is over. Players that refuse to stand may cause their team to be fined by the league.
Since 2015, some players have chosen to take a knee during the anthem to protest police violence. The most prominent among such protesters is former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who once explained his refusal to stand saying “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Over the past three years, many others have chosen to speak up and take a knee during the anthem, stirring controversy. The silent protest has been interpreted by many, including the president, as disrespectful and unpatriotic.
According to Newsday:
“If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players.” Johnson said. “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.”