NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Jets CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson endeared himself to his players when he said last week he would pay any fine incurred due to a national anthem protest.
But as is the case with anything in today’s political climate, a declaration like that is bound to anger some.
As it did in an even bigger way Monday, when the Jets’ Twitter account offered up a good-intentioned Memorial Day tweet.
The NFL’s official account retweeted the Jets’ tweet and the replies came fast and furious, with many accusing the team of hypocrisy, given Johnson’s comments last week. Though the tweet had far more likes (close to 900 by 11:30 a.m.) than negative comments, it’s clear the issue is something that continues to be at the forefront of the American psyche, considering how polarizing politics and sports are in this country.
Johnson told Newsday that his players will be able to continue to protest without any fear of repercussions from the team.
“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” Johnson said. “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.”
New York Congressman Peter King blasted the Jets’ stance on Saturday, calling it, among other things, “disgraceful.”
King spoke to CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan on Monday and doubled down on his vitriol.
“My message for Jets management is if thy don’t stop their policy of reimbursing those who violate our flag, who show disrespect for the American flag — from today — so many people told me they’re no longer Jets fans. They say, ‘So long Jets,'” King said.
The Long Island lawmaker was marching in his hometown Memorial Day parade when he said the team’s response “really struck a chord.”
“Would he support Nazi statues? Would he support the Klan? Would he support the NRA?” King asked. “How far would this go?”
Under the NFL’s new policy, players are no longer required to be on the field during the anthem. However, if they do take the field they will be required to stand or their team will faces fines from the league. In that case, teams would have the right to implement any fines they see fit. Johnson, however, told the paper that he’s not going to be putting any team fines on the books and will handle any league fines that come the team’s way due to player protests.
“They are making it an issue that it isn’t,” Massapequa Park resident Michael Miglino said. “They aren’t kneeling to disrespect the flag.”
Players have maintained they were taking a knee to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
King says anti-police equals anti-American.
“The flag has to stand for something really vital and symbolic in this country,” he said. “To be disrespecting the flag, that’s what kneeling down is, is really offensive to all Americans.”