NFL Owner Says He’ll Pay Players’ Fines if They Protest

‘I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players….’

NFL Owner Says He'll Pay Players' Fines if They Protest

Christopher Johnson/IMAGE: YouTube

(Matt Barrows, The Sacramento Bee) Despite the NFL’s approval of a revised policy that requires players on the field to stand during the national anthem, Jets chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday on Wednesday that his players are free to take a knee or perform some other protest without fear of repercussion from the team.

“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” Johnson 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 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.”

Johnson has been highly critical of the possibility that owners would require players to stand.

During the owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., in March, Johnson told reporters he didn’t feel a change in protocol was necessary.

After owners voted on the national anthem policy Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners took the podium and touted how the vote had been unanimous.

That may have been the case, but one owner, 49ers CEO Jed York, abstained from the vote, telling reporters afterward that he wanted to discuss the issue further with the players and that he was considering halting concession sales during the anthem ceremony.

“I don’t think we should be profiting if we’re going to put this type of attention and focus on the field and on the flag,” he told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.

The new policy states that players who do not want to stand during the national anthem ceremony may remain in the locker room.

Those who take the field, however, are expected “to show respect for the flag and the anthem.”

The teams of players that don’t, the policy states, will be subject to fines from the NFL.

Teams also are expected to come up with their own set of rules consistent with the league’s stance.

While York has not encouraged player protests, he has been among the most sympathetic owners of their right to do so.

Two of the most prominent NFL players who have knelt in recent years, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, played for York and the 49ers.

**MORE COVERAGE OF ANTHEM PROTESTS at LibertyHeadlines.com**

Both remain unsigned after becoming free agents, Kaepernick having done so in March 2017.

In 2016, the 49ers pledged $1 million toward the same social justice causes Kaepernick and the players support.

Last year, Reid said he was grateful he has backing from York.

He “expressed very clearly that he wants to support us,” Reid said in October. “That he’s not going to force us to do anything. Speaking for our team, that’s what he’s told me explicitly.”

Though Reid was the most prominent 49er who protested last season, Eli Harold, Arik Armstead, Marquise Goodwin, Reuben Foster, K’Waun Williams and Dekoda Watson also knelt at times.

©2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.). Reporting from Newsday contributed to this report. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.