New York congressman compares kneeling for national anthem to Nazi salute, blasts Jets chairman Christopher Johnson

Jets chairman Christopher Johnson has offered to pay the fines of players who kneel for the anthem. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Jets chairman Christopher Johnson has offered to pay the fines of players who kneel for the anthem. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The fallout from the NFL’s decision to force players on the field to stand for the national anthem took another political turn on Saturday when New York Rep. Pete King (R) compared kneeling for the anthem to “players giving Nazi salutes or spewing [sic] racism” on Twitter.

Roger Goodell and the NFL are forcing players on the field to stand for the anthem.

On Wednesday, the NFL came to the decision that players on the field for the national anthem must stand, or they and their teams will face fines. Those who kneel for the anthem must remain off the field and out of sight in order to avoid the fine. League owners voted 31-0 in favor of the new rules, with San Francisco abstaining.

League commissioner Roger Goodell said the following:

Clearly our objective of the league and to all 32 clubs, which was unanimous, is that we want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand, that’s all personnel, and make sure we treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something we think we owe. … I think the general public has a very strong view of what respect for the flag is. We have language in our policy that talks about that.

Jets owner Christopher Johnson will pay players’ fines for those who kneel.

Shortly after the ruling was announced, Jets co-owner, CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday’s Bob Glauber that he will pay the fines of the players who choose to kneel on the sidelines during the anthem.

“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules. 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.”

It came as a surprising announcement from Johnson, who co-owns the team with his brother, Woody. The Jets had just voted in favor of the new rules, and Woody Johnson serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Donald Trump.

Christopher Johnson’s decision did not sit well with Rep. Pete King.

King, 74, has represented Long Island in Congress for over two decades and is a strong supporter of President Trump. He is running as the incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District this November.

It’s clear King is no fan of Johnson taking on the fines of his players, saying the protest is “a movement premised on lies vs. police.” He then compared players kneeling for the anthem to giving the Nazi salute, a disturbing comparison between two very different gestures. He concluded his thoughts with, “It’s time to say goodbye to Jets!”

Player backlash to the national anthem ruling has been significant, but fans support it.

Several players are disappointed in the ruling. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall and Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin have spoken out against President Trump, who called any player that kneeled a “son of a bitch” and gained an obvious win in this ruling. Vice President Mike Pence, who walked out a game last season after seeing players kneel, tweeted out “#winning” following the decision.

Fans, however, are overwhelmingly in favor of the new rules:

When asked if they support or oppose the new policy, which states teams will be fined if players “do not stand and show respect for the flag and the [national] anthem,” 53 percent of self-described NFL viewers said they support the policy, with 32 percent opposing and 15 percent saying neither or no opinion.

It’s been several days since the league announced its new stance on what it deems acceptable behavior during the national anthem, but it’s clear that this issue is not one that will go away any time soon and will likely only intensify as the season approaches.

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