New York Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson will not punish players if they incur fines due to the NFL's new policy on kneeling during the national anthem.
The league announced on Wednesday that players will be allowed to stay in the locker room while the national anthem plays, but any personnel on the field must stand, after months of controversy surrounding taking a knee in protest at social inequality.
Teams will be fined if their players go against this policy and "do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem", yet Johnson and the Jets are willing to pay up in order to protect the right for demonstrations.
"I do not like imposing any club-specific rules. If somebody takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organisation, by me, not the players," Johnson is quoted as saying by Newsday.
"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."
Statement from Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson pic.twitter.com/4JObk43oDT— New York Jets (@nyjets) May 23, 2018
Johnson believes the new rules will be difficult for the staff and he intends to get their thoughts on the matter.
"Even without those fines, this is going to be tough on the players," he said.
"And I want a chance to speak with the coaches and other players to get feedback on this policy and to build on the good work and momentum that we have built up on these issues of social justice, on legislation, and all the things that we can do.
"I don't think that this policy will interfere with that at all.
"I have a really good relationship with the players and I hope we can keep that going and I trust that we will. I'm so proud of our players and their efforts to date. I think that is the most important thing to get across. I could not be more proud of the guys."
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