Claiming that he preferred his players to stand, Johnson said in an interview with Newsday, “I do not like imposing any club-specific rules. If somebody wants to take 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.”
“There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the frontlines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t” , he continued. “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.”
Ironically, no Jets players took a knee during the last season, choosing instead to stand with locked arms, players and coaches alike. Even more ironic is that Johnson actually voted for the new NFL policy.
“I seriously struggled with this,” he said of the anthem policy. “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.”
While it appears that Mr. Johnson seems to be striving to do the right thing, it is more likely that he is simply trying to please all sides, especially his players. Showing empathy to the players, he stated, “Even without those fines, this is going to be tough on the players, 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, he said.
However, if this is an attempt to regain lost fans, it will likely fail. People who were against seeing NFL employees being allowed to bring their politics onto the field and disrespect the National Anthem and American flag will see this as continued disrespect. They may support the NFL’s recent decision, but will wonder what the point of it was if the players are allowed to continue to protest.
In addition, having a CEO outwardly allowing these anti-American sentiments while claiming to support the ban by the NFL, will only demonstrate his lack of willingness to stand on principle. After all, Christopher Johnson has no obligation as an employer to ensure First Amendment rights while the team is on NFL time.