New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson opposed the NFL’s new policy on protesting, and offered to pay the fines of any of his players who do so.
Johnson’s brother, Woody, is the owner of the team. He was displeased with the NFL’s announcement on Wednesday, telling Newsday that he never wants “To put restrictions on the speech of our players.”
The league’s Commissioner, Roger Goodell, announced the new policy through Twitter.
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” Goodell said in the statement. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.”
The policy includes a stipulation that “A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” However, Johnson said that he would gladly cover that fine.
“Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest,” Johnson said candidly.
“There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines,” he continued. “I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t.”
The chairman said that if his team faces fines in the coming season, “that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”
Johnson’s brother, Woody, has been on leave from his duties to the team ever since President Trump appointed him the U.S. ambassador to Britain. Christopher Johnson himself is currently the acting owner of the New York Jets.
Last season, none of the players on the Jets took part in the kneeling protest, according to Newsday’s report. However, there was one instance where Johnson stood on the field and linked arms with his players during the anthem shortly after the president spoke out against NFL players who protested.
“It was an honor and a privilege to stand arm-in-arm unified with our players during today’s National Anthem,” he said in a statement at the time. “We are very proud of our players and their strong commitment to work in our community to make a positive, constructive, and unifying impact.”
Many speculated that the protests were outlawed in an effort to save the NFL’s falling ratings on TV. Coverage of the games has lost a substantial chunk of its audience in the last several years. In 2016, the league blamed lack of interest on the contentious election, and last year the blame was turned to the protests, among other things.