Christopher Johnson has just told his players to feel free to take a knee. The New York Jets co-owner says he disagrees with the NFL’s new policy banning players from protesting police violence and killings of Black people by kneeling during the national anthem.
“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” Johnson says, as reported by Newsday. “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,” Johnson continued. “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.”
Earlier Tuesday, the NFL issued the new policy, which states that all players who are on the field during the anthem must “stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” Players are allowed to stay in the locker rooms during the Anthem, which effectively silences their protests.
Despite having gone on for several years, many Americans, thanks to conservatives, Fox News, and President Trump, do not understand what the protests are about.
President Trump falsely claims the players are disrespecting the U.S. Armed Forces, the nation, and the flag. Trump has tweeted about the NFL dozens of times, misleading Americans.
In reality, kneeling during the national anthem, which was promoted by Colin Kaepernick, is about protesting police attacks and killings of Black people, especially young Black men.
So, it is definitely about race. And free speech, and oppression.
Here’s what Kaepernick said in 2016:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Perhaps he didn’t issue a press release or start a non-profit, but he made clear why he kneeled. And those who joined him knew why too.
And clearly, so does Chris Johnson.