This past Wednesday, the NFL took extraordinary measures to stop its employees from silently protesting during the National Anthem in hopes of forcing a conversation about racial inequality and injustice. The NFL said every player “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem," and if they choose not to, they will be required to stay in the locker room. If a player blows off the new rule, the NFL plans to fine the team, and the team will be empowered to impose any additional fines or suspensions on that individual player.
This is where Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross should step in and lead by example. He should make a statement by sticking by his players and allowing them to continue to use their stardom and the pregame platform for good. Ross should promise to pay whatever fines the NFL imposes on the team and personally fine each protesting player $1, which he can symbolically donate to a charity of the player's choice.
On which side of history does Ross want to be? Does he want to side with Donald Trump's false narrative that the protests are "unpatriotic," or does he want to side with bringing awareness to the lack of racial equality in America and ongoing police brutality against minorities?
Kneeling during the National Anthem has never been about
Though NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said owners voted unanimously to rescind a prior rule that stated players must be present on the field for the National Anthem, what happens from here from team to team is very much up in the air. The San Francisco 49ers were the only team that chose not to participate in the vote, but they all agreed to open another avenue to sidestep the controversy that Trump sparked last fall.
Not all teams, however, must abide by the NFL's wishes.
Statement from Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson pic.twitter.com/4JObk43oDT— New York Jets (@nyjets) May 23, 2018
The New York Jets and their chairman and CEO, Christopher Johnson, were the first to publicly state they would not only opt not to fine players who silently protested, but also pay any fines the NFL imposed upon the Jets due to those players' actions.
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“There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions,” Johnson told Newsday. “If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”
Ross should take a page out of his rival's playbook and stand up for what is right, not what is easy. It would be easy to stop players from peacefully protesting. It would be easy to tell grown men to stay in the locker room or keep their hands on their chests during the National Anthem.
It would be difficult, and right, for Ross to join the Jets in making a statement that players are entitled to a voice, and to announce he will not mute them in the name of money or TV ratings.
Do the right thing, Ross. Rally behind your team. Make a difference.