One NFL owner has already railed against the league's new national anthem policy. It probably isn't one that you would have guessed. New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson is taking a pretty strong stance on how his team will handle any players that want to protest.
With the new policy, the NFL announced that it will fine any player that does not stand for the national anthem. It will also allow for additional penalties imposed by the team. Players will be allowed to stay in the locker room during the anthem, but that just disarms the protest in another way.
Christopher Johnson is the first owner to openly speak against the new policy. He says that the Jets will pay for any fine that his players incur.
Johnson's quotes have been getting some serious traction. Via Newsday:
“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 in March, Johnson told reporters he didn’t feel a change in protocol was necessary. “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.”
Last season, Jets players did not protest during the national anthem.
It is unclear whether Christopher Johnson and the Jets voted for the new rules.
The NFL announced that they passed "unanimously," but that doesn't appear to be entirely true. After the news first leaked out, the San Francisco 49ers' Jed York said he abstained from voting.
Johnson could have taken a similar stance, and elected to abstain like York. However, it sounds like most NFL owners were behind this rule.
Christopher Johnson is a particularly interesting figure to take this stance. The anthem protests became a hot button issue for President Donald Trump, who railed against the NFL players who did so last season. Johnson's brother, Woody Johnson, is an ardent Trump supporter, and currently serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.