'I'll pay the fine', says Jets owner after NFL bans kneeling during national anthem
The New York Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson on Wednesday said that he would pay any fine handed to his team by the National Football League (NFL) and added that he would freely allow his players to kneel during the American national anthem without fear of any repercussions.
The Jets owner issued the statement in response to NFL's new policy approval on Wednesday which states that it could fine teams if their players do not stand for the national anthem.
Reports state that league owners approved the mandate on Wednesday which requires players to stand if they are on the field or stay in the locker room during the anthem.
The mandate states that any violations of the policy would result in fines from the NFL against the entire team, not players.
The Jets' acting owner, Johnson, shortly after the mandate's announcement by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement saying he will support his players.
"As I have in the past, I will support our players wherever we land as a team," he said. "Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines, or restrictions."
Johnson, during an interview with Newsday, further elaborated stating that the protests by the players are part of a bigger picture problem that is important to the team members.
"If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players." Johnson said.
"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."
The NFL Players Association also released a statement in response to the new policy and said that it violates the collective bargaining agreement, according to reports.
NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick had launched a sports movement by taking a knee during the pre-game playing of the American national anthem in 2016. He was with the San Francisco 49ers at the time and had done so in an effort to protest rampant police brutality in the country. Other players took his cue and joined the protest in the 2016 season.
Kaepernick was also given the Ambassador of Conscience Award in April by Amnesty International for his protest against racial injustice in the United States.
Kaepernick's movement drew heavy criticism from President Donald Trump, who even called for the owners of the NFL teams to fire the players who were participating in it.
President Trump, during a political rally in Alabama, had said: "That's a total disrespect of our heritage. That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for."
There were quite a few reaction to the news on Twitter.