The National Football League, bastion of patriotism, has decided in their infinite wisdom that football players on the sidelines are required to stand during the national anthem and anyone who exercises their First Amendment rights by kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” will have to pay a fine, as our founders surely intended.
In response to this latest decree from the NFL, New York Jets chairman and acting owner Christopher Johnson announced that he supports his players’ right to take a knee and, should any individual on his team be fined for doing so, “that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players.” He went on:
“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 is the Jets’ acting owner while his brother, Woody Johnson, is in the United Kingdom serving as a U.S. ambassador. Woody Johnson was appointed to ambassador by Trump; he was a top fundraiser for Trump’s presidential campaign and for the Republican National Committee.
Saturday morning, presumably to kick off a leisurely Memorial Day weekend spent honoring the troops, New York Congressman Peter King tweeted that Christopher Johnson’s announcement was “disgraceful” and was tantamount to paying fines “of players giving Nazi salutes or spew racism [sic]”.
Disgraceful that @nyjets owner will pay fines for players who kneel for National Anthem. Encouraging a movement premised on lies vs. police. Would he support all player protests? Would he pay fines of players giving Nazi salutes or spew racism? It’s time to say goodbye to Jets!
— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) May 26, 2018
For what it’s worth, NFL players who have chosen to kneel are protesting police brutality and racial injustice, and have in fact explained the intention of their protest many, many times.