New York Jets CEO and Co-owner Christoper Johnson, has vowed to pay the fines of any Jets player who chooses to protest the national anthem.
In addition, Johnson says that the Jets organization will not punish any of their players for protesting.
“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” Johnson told 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. 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’s opposition to the league’s new anthem policy does not come completely unexpected. The Jets acting owner made it clear during ownership meetings in March, that he didn’t feel a rule change 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,” Johnson said.
While Johnson may have opposed the policy change initially, he eventually saw fit to support his fellow owners in voting for the rule change.
“I seriously struggled with this,” Johnson said of the process which led to the anthem policy change.. “You know my position on the anthem, and you have to understand that the plan we ended up with, due to some serious work in the [meeting] room, was vastly less onerous than the one that was presented to me late last week. In the end, I felt I had to support it from a membership standpoint.”
Interestingly, Christopher Johnson is the brother of Woody Johnson, who is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. According to The Hill, Woody Johnson is a “longtime donor” to the GOP and made a $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.
President Trump played an integral role in rallying fans opposed to the anthem protests, by publicly calling the players out. In September of last year, Trump called protesting players “SOB’s,” and said he wished their team owners would fire them.
According to Newsday, “No Jets players took a knee last season. Instead, the players, coaches and Johnson locked arms during the playing of the anthem. Johnson also has worked closely with several Jets players, as well as former linebacker Demario Davis, who now plays with the Saints, to promote social justice and criminal reform issues. He wants that work to continue and will speak with players and coaches in the coming days to make sure the new workplace guidelines don’t interfere with that mission.”
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn