New York Jets chairman, brother of Trump ambassador, says he'll pay fines for team players who protest during anthem

The chairman of the New York Jets said he will pay the fines for players on his team who protest during the national anthem, hours after the NFL announced a new policy penalizing players who do so.

Jets chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday that he never wants “to put restrictions on the speech of our players.”

The NFL announced the new policy earlier Wednesday, saying that teams can avoid fines by allowing players to stay off the field during the anthem.

Those who remain on the field will be required to stand during the anthem and will be penalized if they protest.

“Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest,” Johnson said.

“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.”

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He added that if the team is fined over the protests, “that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”

The Jets are owned by Johnson’s brother, Woody Johnson, who has been on leave since he was appointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Britain. Christopher Johnson is serving as acting owner of the team.

Newsday noted that no Jets players knelt in protest during the anthem in the last NFL season.

Christopher Johnson stood on the field and linked arms with Jets players during the national anthem last year after Trump attacked players for kneeling during the anthem.

“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.”