Cincinnati Bengals Owner Mike Brown recently said that NFL owners have been warned to keep quiet on the issue of player protests during the national anthem.
“The league and the union are talking on this, and we’re instructed to stand down while that’s ongoing,” Brown told ESPN on July 24. “I’m not going to sit here and stir the pot. They don’t want to hear from me right now. Let’s see how this bubbles up, and I hope they can come up with some kind of answer that is acceptable to not just the club and the players but more the public.”
The Bengals owner added that he is sad about the huge number of fans the league has lost over the constant protests over the last two seasons. “We have lost some of the fizz we had with the public with distractions, whether it’s the anthem issue or the concussion issue,” he said.
But the billionaire son of team owner Paul Brown went on to claim that detractors of the protests don’t “understand” what they are about.
“These issues are not generally fully understood by the people that criticize. And it has taken the focus off what we want the people to be looking at: the game itself. That’s where the excitement is, not these periphery issues,” he said.
Brown did allow that the league is not doing a good job addressing the issue, but he otherwise would not say exactly what he thinks of the protests or how he thinks the issue should be resolved.
Many criticized Brown after news broke early this year that he had quizzed free-agent Eric Reid as to his future intentions about protesting during the anthem. And some of those reports insisted that Brown intended to ban protests for his players.
Reid is one of the players who filed a grievance against the league claiming that owners have “colluded” to keep him on the sidelines.
Brown ultimately said he didn’t know when a solution would be forthcoming from meetings between the league and the players, but noted that the parties didn’t have much time to decide. “I don’t know when it’ll be, but if it isn’t by the opening game, it’ll be interesting,” he concluded.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.