The recent news of player protest rule changes has caused a stir in the NFL community. One new ruling states that players must stand during the national anthem or stay in the locker room. New York Jets Chairman Christopher Johnson is one of many who believes the ruling undermines the freedoms of NFL players.
New York Jets Chairman Christopher Johnson doesn’t agree with that sentiment as he told Newsday on Wednesday that his players would be free from consequence if they decided to take a knee during the anthem or protest in any other way. There will be no repercussions from the team itself.
NFL League owners adopted a new policy where players must stand for the Anthem or stay in the dressing room. Those that do not stand for the anthem and take to the field in doing so will not face repercussions directly, although their teams will be fined. individual teams are also allowed to address the issues internally however they see fit.
“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” Johnson said. “If somebody [on the New York 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.”
This isn’t the first time Johnson has spoken out. His highly critical stance on the national anthem, in particular, has been well documented.
New York Jets help lead the way
Demario Davis, formerly of the New York Jets (Now of the New Orleans Saints) has worked closely with the New York Jets chairman on several occasions to promote social justice and criminal reform issues.
During the owners’ meetings in Orlando in March, Johnson told reporters he didn’t feel a change in protocol is required. “I know there’s some discussion of keeping players off the field until after the anthem. I think that’s a particularly bad idea . . . I just think that trying to forcibly get the players to shut up is a fantastically bad idea.”
None of the New York Jets’ players took a knee during the 2017 season. Although the players and staff did interlock arms during the anthem as a display of solidarity.
He wants that work to continue and will speak with players and coaches in the coming days to make sure the new workplace guidelines don’t interfere with that mission.
Johnson believes communication is key, especially in the months after drastic rule changes as we’ve just seen in order to make sure personal beliefs do not impact the teams’ overall goals.
“I seriously struggled with this,” he said of the anthem rule changes. “You know my position on the anthem, and you have to understand that the plan we ended up with, due to some serious work in the [meeting] room, was vastly less onerous than the one that was presented to me late last week. In the end, I felt I had to support it from a membership standpoint.”
The mere fact that Johnson is happy to pay any fines that the players incur and not look to punish those who protest during the anthem shows his loyalty to the athletes representing the New York Jets.
“Even without those fines, this is going to be tough on the players, and 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 upon these issues of social justice, on legislation, and all the things that we can do,” he said. “I don’t think that this policy will interfere with that at all”.
“I have a really good relationship with the players, and I hope we can keep that going and I trust that we will. I’m so proud of our players and their efforts to date. I think that is the most important thing to get across. I could not be more proud of the guys.”