Statement from Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson pic.twitter.com/4JObk43oDT— New York Jets (@nyjets) May 23, 2018
In a bid to prevent players from peacefully protesting against the racial injustice and police brutality in the country, the National Football League announced players could be subjected to a fine if they continue to kneel during the national anthem, and there could be consequences if they refuse to stand.
Although the NFL logo resembles an American flag, there’s nothing truly “American” about the organization’s recent decision to restrict speech rights, which seems more about making President Donald Trump happy than making sure the fans are.
This president has been ranting and raving about his desire to kick protesting players out of the country, as well as taking other disturbing (and racist) views about the players. And now, the league has finally caved to him.
The NFL could have taken a smarter approach: respecting the dialogue of players and actually encouraging more political discussion about racism in the country. Instead, they’ve taken the easier and more cowardly route: doing as the president demanded and inflating his ego.
However, at least one of the top team executives didn’t stand with the NFL in regard to its controversial policy.
Shortly after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement about the penalties, New York Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said the team would continue to support players who might choose to kneel anyway — and not issue any fines.
“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” said Johnson. “If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players.”
A majority of the league owners unanimously approved the mandate that would require players to stay in the locker room if they don’t wish to stand during the anthem. All personnel on the field, however, would be expected to stand.
In case of any violation of the latest policy, the team, not the player, will be fined by the league. But the organization would be allowed to penalize a player as they see fit.
However, Johnson, who is serving as the team's acting owner, undeterred by recently-placed restrictions, told his players to feel free to take a knee.
“As I have in the past, I will support our players wherever we land as a team. 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,” said Johnson.
“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,” he added.
The final verdict on a lengthy and politically-charged debate took the internet by storm, where the Trump administration celebrated the NFL’s shift in policy, while many others took to Twitter to highlight the absurdity of the new guidelines.
Today’s decision by the @NFL is a win for the fans, a win for @POTUS, and a win for America. Americans can once again come together around what unites us – our flag, our military, and our National Anthem. Thank you NFL. #ProudToStand pic.twitter.com/zNwxhYGNaN— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) May 23, 2018
If players must stand for the anthem, fans in the stadium must be held to the same standard. No running for food or beer. No chatting with your BFF.— mike sb (@Mike__SB) May 23, 2018
I’m sure most, having voiced their opinions about the players so loud and patriotically, would have no problem abiding.
NFL should also fine any member of the crowd who doesn't stand for the Flag and Anthem. The NFL should fine any person who doesn't come to an NFL game to stand for the Flag and Anthem. If you own a football you must come to the Stand. Flag. Anthem. Freedom is Penalty. Papa Johns.— Brock Wilbur (@brockwilbur) May 23, 2018
While the NFL's new policy has certainly resurrected the controversy around the #TakeAKnee movement on social media, it is yet to be seen how fans of the sport will actually handle it when the season begins.
There's a strong possibility that fans could revolt against this oppressive, unconstitutional appeasement of the president. The stadiums may get emptier and peoples' televisions may be tuned into other stations.
But, then again, perhaps there are more NFL fans who are Trump supporters. After all, why would the league feel so pressured to buckle to Trump's absurd demands if there wasn't a significant portion of fans who agreed with him?
Banner Image: Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)