Russell Okung urges players to band together against NFL, Trump’s anthem pressure

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If the NFL and its team owners think players are just going to go along quietly with whatever they decide to make their national anthem problem go away, they could be in for a bit o a surprise.

Chargers tackle Russell Okung has written a letter to all the league’s players that he’s going to post online, asking them to take a unified stand against any pressure from the league to curb demonstrations during the anthem.

“We can either wait until we receive our respective marching orders, speak up individually, or find a way to collaborate, and exercise our agency as the lifeblood of the league,” Okung wrote, according to a copy of the letter provided to the New York Times.

Owners will meet next week, and how to handle protests during the anthem (not of the anthem) will be a central topic. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dolpins owner Stephen Ross have already sent down word that their players should stand, after pressure from the White House.

Okung said he wanted to reach out to players because he feared the initial point of protests — racial inequality and police brutality — has been lost in the bluster of President Donald Trump’s speeches and tweets.

“I’m about shifting the narrative. We can’t be distracted by what he is trying to do,” Okung said of Trump. “We’re honing our voice. We’re not unified against Trump, we’re unified against social injustice.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo this week making clear the league wanted players to stand, while trying to walk the fine line of not alienating labor.

And Okung’s letter (which has been posted in full at the Players Tribune) makes clear that might be trickier than imagined.

89 responses to “Russell Okung urges players to band together against NFL, Trump’s anthem pressure

  1. It really doesn’t look like there are any good guys in this mess. The players are being jerks and getting everyone upset. Others are lying about the nature of the protests to rile up fake outrage. And some are making it about race. I’m kind of hating all of them.

  2. Yeah, more anthem protesting by players. That will really endear players to the fans and increase the NFL’s popularity. They need to cool it, not keep stirring the pot, but apparently many of them are too stupid to realize it?!

  3. I thought the Titans, the Seahawks and the Steelers had the best collective answer to Trump/pence’s cheap politicization of the anthem:
    Don’t single out individual; instead, come out of the lockerroom/tunnel as a team when the ceremony is over.

  4. He should worry more about his game than anything else. Dude is the most overpaid offensive lineman in the NFL. He actually should get a new position made in his name: Turnstile.

  5. If these players feel so strongly about their beliefs, why not protest by refusing to play? That would show me something. Dishonoring the anthem does nothing to further their cause, whatever that is.

  6. Keep doubling down on your mistakes…what you get when you “win” is something you can’t even fathom. Only the dumb attempt to use peer, racial and political pressure to forward their agenda. Especially an agenda which will pit your wallet against the people who put cash in them.

  7. Players on teams with losing records will participate in something (aka ‘Losers’) while players on winning teams (ale ‘Winners’) will (and should) focus all their energy on continuing to win.

    First amendment rights in the workplace are not a privledge.

  8. At this point they’re just protesting the idea of their bosses telling them what to do while at work.

    I haven’t heard any players talking about measures that need to be taken to improve the issues they claim to be protesting; and if they are, I sure haven’t seen it here.

  9. Glad to see the players not wimping out. Players have more power than tbey realize. You can not allow them to control you like that. I speak up with my job , speak up for yours. Only 1% of America has the talent to play in the NFL. Players , you are in control from here.

  10. There is nothing tricky about getting the players to stand.

    You simply enforce your constitutional rights on acceptable employee behavior while they are in uniform.

    This ain’t rocket science.

    The players have no constitutional right to conduct a personal protest while they are on the job.

    It would have been a lot easier if a certain commissioner would have instructed a certain QB last season about this very topic.

  11. I’m about shifting the narrative. We can’t be distracted by what he is trying to do,” Okung said of Trump. “We’re honing our voice. We’re not unified against Trump, we’re unified against social injustice.”
    —————————————————–

    okay, fine, whatever –

    so what I’m hearing you say then is you will never, ever, ever stand for the anthem. Since day one on this world there has always been social injustice and there always will be social injustice. So now you’re kind of in a predicament because at some point when you do come to some sort of agreement (my guess is it would be financial) with the NFL and you start standing again we will all then see it really wasn’t about the “social injustice” after all.

  12. The title of this story should have been: “Russell Okung urges players to band together in angering half of the NFL fan base and costing players and owners billions of dollars in lost revenue that they will never be able to recoup”.

    But that title would have taken up too much space

  13. @steelerdeathstar
    this issue is bigger than making sure you are “endeared” by the players and if the pot wasn’t stirred a mere 50 years ago, you and I would be drinking from separate sources…….but perhaps that’s how western pa rolls.

  14. If anyone of us would band together against our employers, we would be fired immediately. These overpaid jerks need to protest/demonstrate on there own time, not on the job. The NFL should stand up and start replacing them. There rule book does state “Throughout the period on game-day that a player is visible to the stadium and television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and during postgame interviews in the locker room or on the field), players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration, unless such message has been approved in advance by the League office.

  15. dcpatfan says:
    October 13, 2017 at 10:02 am
    @steelerdeathstar
    this issue is bigger than making sure you are “endeared” by the players and if the pot wasn’t stirred a mere 50 years ago, you and I would be drinking from separate sources…….but perhaps that’s how western pa rolls.
    ——
    Don’t you have a protest to attend somewhere?

  16. Kudos to Russell Okung. There is social injustice in this country. Protesting in the dark is like not protesting at all. Protest where people see you. Keep up the good fight.

  17. my fandom has declined steadily and if the spoiled brat millionaires who play a game start to flagrantly disrespect the flag and the country en masse I will be completely done with these entitles jerkoffs.

  18. I always thought protests had 2 goals – publicize an issue and gain empathy/support for your cause. I would suggest the national anthem protest has done one well, but not the other.

  19. I wonder how many superstar players will resign after the next CBA since they would already have have millions in the bank and might not be up for taking a beating on the field while taking a paycut. The effect of these protests, both financially and in the quality of the product, will be felt for years to come. Even if the players and the NFL come to some kind of agreement, anyone who thinks things will ever be the same is delusional.

  20. Ya can’t tell me this isnt really a war again trump now as in higher powers are involved politically. He never mentioned the fans are also pissed. Veterans,etc. It’s now them against Trump.

  21. Last time I checked, the players were employees and were on the clock when the anthem was played. Regardless of your personal stance on the issue, the fact is that players kneeling during the anthem is costing their respective employers millions. As such, the league wants its employees to stand during then anthem while they are being paid to do so.

    All Russell Okung is managing to do is to publicly declare himself a liability and a distraction. Much like Kap, Micheal Sam and T.O. before him, I suspect he will soon find that liabilities are not welcome in the league. Nothing motivates people to fall in line faster than threatening their livelihood.

  22. Okung and some of the other NFL players don’t get it. The Anthem battle is a losing one, especially since it’s more of a battle against Trump than social injustice. The NFLPA seems tone deaf on how to handle the issue. Where are the commercials or statements from them on social injustice? I haven’t seen much if any from them. Maybe a few from some players, but nothing coordinated from the NFLPA.

  23. People have said that first amendment rights in the workplace are not a privilege. They should be protesting on the job. But at the end of day, these football players platform is on the field, just as a radio personality platform is the radio and a TV personality platform is on TV.

    Keep up the good fight, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop!

  24. When will the blowhards who claim they will quit watching the NFL actually quit watching the NFL? Fewer and fewer teams from all sports are booking stays in Trump-branded hotels over the last year, so we can expect to hear a lot more noise out of Trump going forward… since this is a free country and all.

  25. @steelerdeathstar
    this issue is bigger than making sure you are “endeared” by the players and if the pot wasn’t stirred a mere 50 years ago, you and I would be drinking from separate sources…….but perhaps that’s how western pa rolls.
    ————————————————————————————————-
    I call BS. Nobody, or very few are protesting because of a social injustice that has occurred. If that was the case, this would have happened after police shootings, or when Kap kneeled last season when he was pretty much protesting by himself. It took Trump calling them out to “protest”. Let’s not make the protests to be about something more than hatred for Trump. I’m no fan of the man, but saying these protests are about social injustice and not about protesting Trump is laughable.

  26. Okung, like most others, is barking up the wrong tree. It appears he wants to collaborate so they can have their voice heard. What’s missing is that the football field is not the right place. Collaborate together and go into the communities, collaborate with the police and government leaders at all levels. That’s where change happens, not on a football field. I’m all for the players banding together, but do some good out of it, not just stand around on a sideline disrespecting American traditions.

  27. if you have never walked in these guys shoes before, then you can’t understand why this issue is about so much more than football, AND has absolutely nothing to do with the military, the flag, patriotism, or how much money they make.

    It is probably the one area where they actually have the leverage to force a conversation that many people are uncomfortable having, which is evidenced by how the focus of the conversation keeps getting shifted. Way to go Russell, and Rhanks to President Trump for stirring this nest to begin with.

    The funny thing is that the protest had pretty much become a non-issue, until one fateful night in Alabama (of all places).

  28. I believe interest in the NFL was starting to decline due to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) issue. Parents of young kids aren’t letting them play youth football, there’s been a decline in participation on the high school level so eventually that will impact the college game which will impact the professional game. That said, the player protests are accelerating the death of the sport. Ratings are down which results in revenue going down. All these college educated players just don’t seem to understand that they’re killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Bye bye NFL, it was a great ride!

  29. First Amendment rights on the job actually are protected so long as you are not 8n civil service or are otherwise a government employee, so long as you employer doesn’t restrict them. NFL is a privately held business. They don’t in fact have a rule against it, and since the statements being made are not interrupting preparation or performance there is no legitimate complaint on the part of the employer that the actions affect performance. Also might help to listen to some volunteer veterans over 25. Patriotism is not blind. It is OK and legal to love a country and still think it could be better. It is OK and legal to stand up for what you believe in. It is also OK and legal to let other people do it. These guys are not using their own or our microphones. They are quietly and respectfully demonstrating. They only speak about it when asked. Please listen to them before shouting at them.

  30. I support Russell 100%. The best way to disrespect the military and our veterans is to try to take away the freedom they gave their lives for. Especially if you’re a draft dodger like Trump. So everybody’s fearless leader on respect for the military is a guy who was anything but fearless when it was his turn to serve his country? That makes no sense. This is a race issue. Has nothing to do with patriotism. The players aren’t going to go along with it.

  31. I would be fine with the NFL cancelling the remainder of the season and dismissing all players without pay. I would watch college football until just after New Year’s and be perfectly happy.

    I know this is fantasy but wouldn’t it be great if for once the NFL took a legitimate stand?

  32. happywalkhappydog says:

    Glad to see the players not wimping out. Players have more power than tbey realize. You can not allow them to control you like that. I speak up with my job , speak up for yours. Only 1% of America has the talent to play in the NFL. Players , you are in control from here.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Let’s check your math…

    There are 300,000,000 people in the U.S. Of those, roughly 80,000,000 are between the ages of 20 and 39. Assuming that roughly half are women, I’ll reduce that to only 40,000,000 (not saying that we’ll never have women in the NFL).

    So using your math, there are only 400,000 men that have the talent to play in the NFL. There are only 1696 players currently on a 53 man roster.

    These players should be worried about being replaced. Because they can and will be if they don’t follow the rules.

    The NFL has suspended plenty of outstanding players over the years. They will suspend more in the future.

  33. IT seems MOST are spouting against what some of the players are doing and would welcome “patriotism” as is in North Korea…FORCED patriotism that is.
    The mob mentality is what exists now and freedom will be gone before you know it. I support what the players are doing and if the loud mouths REALLY cared about the country they would do things to improve the situation.

  34. Both sides on this are a mess. What they don’t realize is that for the majority of us who watch the game, sports is escapism. I have a job i don’t particularly, bills i can’t pay, a kid to take care of, and not enough time to do anything I really want to do. I watch sports because it takes my mind off of all of this for a little bit. I cannot stand politics and hate the left and the right. If my mental outlet is being polluted by politicization, then I’m done watching. I have real problems to deal with and don’t want to hear about social injustice by guys making more money in one week than i will make in my lifetime. And I don’t care if thats fair or not. Life isn’t fair. Those of us living in the real world have to accept and deal with that fact everyday. I’m tired of hearing about this storyline. Its taking the fun out of football and quite frankly I really don’t even care anymore.

  35. scoocha says:
    October 13, 2017 at 10:40 am
    Okung is too stupid to realize he is destroying the league and his only way of ever avoid being homeless.
    _____________
    I truly hope this is just trolling and that people don’t actually think this way. It would be very ignorant to assume a man would be homeless if he didn’t play in the NFL.

    I’ve been saying for a while that nobody (myself included) is actually going to stop watching our precious football over these issues. I’ve been a fan my entire life and the team I root for has become a part of my identity. I feel myself moving away from that association not because I don’t enjoy watching and rooting for them, but because I’m feeling less comfortable being associated with a fan-base that refuses to be open-minded about anything that goes against their own beliefs.

  36. MNF Football just had it’s lowest ratings of the season. Considering the match up this Monday Night, it will be even worse. Keep kneeling fellas, Americans are catching up on their DVRs. I know my family did.

  37. happywalkhappydog says:
    October 13, 2017 at 9:59 am
    Glad to see the players not wimping out. Players have more power than tbey realize. You can not allow them to control you like that. I speak up with my job , speak up for yours. Only 1% of America has the talent to play in the NFL. Players , you are in control from here.

    —————
    Yup. Thats why there has never been a lockout.

  38. I hope all the disrespectful “players” stay home. Maybe the ones that are left can get some good game experience. Can’t wait to see how they react to less revenue because of lack of fan financial support.

  39. famundacheese says:
    October 13, 2017 at 10:04 am
    The land of the free (As long as you do what we think is right!)
    ———————————————————————————-
    Im not even sure who this is aimed at anymore.

  40. Jazzeppi says:
    October 13, 2017 at 11:03 am
    I believe interest in the NFL was starting to decline due to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) issue. Parents of young kids aren’t letting them play youth football, there’s been a decline in participation on the high school level so eventually that will impact the college game which will impact the professional game. That said, the player protests are accelerating the death of the sport. Ratings are down which results in revenue going down. All these college educated players just don’t seem to understand that they’re killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Bye bye NFL, it was a great ride!

    ——————-
    As more and more of our youth grow up playing soccer the popularity of soccer will rise to be the first real challenge the NFL has seen in the US. Given how Soccer does win handily in other countries where folks grew up playing soccer it would appear the trend will continue that way. The good news in that is the side effect that America will become a more prolific source of great soccer players so we fans will get treated to exciting competition either way.

    Its underestimated how much adult sporting choices are influenced by what a person grew up playing. Its not 100% but its still very heavy.

  41. I would honestly rather watch a bunch of scabs play that had far less talent but that stood for our national anthem and flag. I prefer my football without being lectured by a bunch of social justice warriors. These spoiled rich babies can get all wokey woke woke on their own time, not on my dime

  42. “…we’re unified against social injustice.”
    ———–
    “says Russell Okung who has recently been underpaid due to said injustice and only has $25 million of his salary guaranteed.

    Cool story bro.

  43. CUT ‘EM! HE CAN JOIN KAEPERNICK AS TOXIC AND WON’T BE PICKED UP. GOOD JOB RUSSEL….YOU JUST RUINED YOUR CAREER… BECOMING A FULL TIME ACTIVIST DOESN’T PAY VERY WELL.

  44. ckudrick says:
    October 13, 2017 at 10:54 am
    These guys are playing right into Trump’s hands and they don’t even realize it.
    ____________________________________________________
    I’m not sure where you stand on potus, but if you are aligned with him then on this issue YOU are being played.

  45. The players just don’t get it. Standing for the national anthem at it core has nothing to do with Trump. They’re letting their pride get in the way and in turn they lose on 2 counts. First, the NFL is seeing it’s dominance starting to decline with fans, and some of it has to do with people feeling that kneeling or any other protest during the anthem, is disrespectful. Ironically, respect is what in part the players are trying to gain. They need to remember that what you give is what you get. Second, the players have social issues they are trying to address, but by being disrespectful to the values of at least half of your fans, you are doing nothing to move those conversations in a positive direction. And it’s a shame because some of these players like Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles, have done ride alongs with police and met with politicians and donated money to help. But they allow hate for Trump or whatever other reason they may have to lose the general public support.

  46. ZIA Boy says:

    I’ve been saying for a while that nobody (myself included) is actually going to stop watching our precious football over these issues. I’ve been a fan my entire life and the team I root for has become a part of my identity. I feel myself moving away from that association not because I don’t enjoy watching and rooting for them, but because I’m feeling less comfortable being associated with a fan-base that refuses to be open-minded about anything that goes against their own beliefs.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    I was thinking you and I are in agreement when I started reading your post. But then you took a left turn and I’m still going straight…

    I agree that most will continue to watch football. But there will be less football watched. I’m a season ticketholder and have been for years. I’ve supported my team since they first joined the league when I was a young kid. I will continue to watch them – but am considering selling my PSL and just watching them on TV.

    What has already changed is that I only watch my NFL team play. No more 2 or 3 game Sundays for me. Also, no more NFL merchandise is being purchased. This is my personal protest to their protest.

    And I am open minded towards the players. They are fully within their rights to voice their opinions and protest all they want – on their own time – just like you and I.

  47. “When will the blowhards who claim they will quit watching the NFL actually quit watching the NFL? Fewer and fewer teams from all sports are booking stays in Trump-branded hotels over the last year, so we can expect to hear a lot more noise out of Trump going forward… since this is a free country and all.”

    Is your head completely buried in the sand? NFL ratings are down and just keep dropping. These morons like Okung don’t even realize the effect of their “protest”. Of course the owners are not much smarter, they gave this life by not stopping it immediately last year. And then you have the moronic league office with the impotent commish missing a brain. If there was any common sense between the three they would get together and realize this whole “protest” is going to hurt all of them and work out a sensible solution. But this is the NFL, so there is no chance of that happening.

  48. Jazzeppi says:
    October 13, 2017 at 11:03 am
    ——————-
    As more and more of our youth grow up playing soccer the popularity of soccer will rise to be the first real challenge the NFL has seen in the US. Given how Soccer does win handily in other countries where folks grew up playing soccer it would appear the trend will continue that way. The good news in that is the side effect that America will become a more prolific source of great soccer players so we fans will get treated to exciting competition either way.

    Its underestimated how much adult sporting choices are influenced by what a person grew up playing. Its not 100% but its still very heavy.

    What a hilarious time to be posting a comment like this after the US just lost to a country the size of Rhode Island to miss the world cup. I grew up in the 80’s and I have been hearing about how big soccer is going to be for the last 30 years. Give it up, it just isn’t going to happen. Football’s popularity is likely to wane but it certainly will not be because soccer is so big. The game is just not exciting enough for most people and never will be.

  49. These protests are just like the CBA bargaining.

    The players that either don’t agree with the stances, or the ones not making enough to make it through a strike will never comply. They will go along with the league on any changes they make. Why? Because they aren’t making millions of year. They need the league to play a game they love. So the players in this just like the NFLPA during barganing will be split. While the owners who are seeing the backlash from the fans will be unified.

  50. As more and more of our youth grow up playing soccer the popularity of soccer will rise to be the first real challenge the NFL has seen in the US. Given how Soccer does win handily in other countries where folks grew up playing soccer it would appear the trend will continue that way. The good news in that is the side effect that America will become a more prolific source of great soccer players so we fans will get treated to exciting competition either way.

    Its underestimated how much adult sporting choices are influenced by what a person grew up playing. Its not 100% but its still very heavy.

    ========
    You wanna take that step further? American Football isn’t even the top 10 in sports worlwide I don’t think. If it is it’s near the bottom. Last time I looked it something like this.

    1. Soccer
    2. Cricket
    3. Golf
    4. Tennis
    5. Baseball
    6. Track // Field
    7. American Football (maybe was this high)

  51. This is no longer about social injustice. It is about pride, power, and control. All parties involved are posturing to get or maintain control and are too egotistical to publicly admit they were wrong. Why weren’t more of the players who have been kneeling since Trump called them out kneeling last year? Was there no social injustice then when Kaep started this? Where were the owners last year? Hypocrites.

  52. So how do you guys feel about Trump and Hannity ACTUALLY disrespecting the flag? ON a military base? IN the presence of our military?

    Here’s a chance for each of you to show us you’re not a hypocrite. Any takers?

  53. cosmoman11 says:
    October 13, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Kudos to Russell Okung. There is social injustice in this country. Protesting in the dark is like not protesting at all. Protest where people see you.
    ———————

    The problem is that sitting down, taking a knee, or raising a fist while the national anthem is being sung is pretty much protesting in the dark. In fact, it really isn’t a protest at all. It is just a completely wasted effort that helps no one.

  54. “Life blood”? You really think the temporary employees who last approx. 3-4 yrs are the life blood of the league? There’s your mistake my friend. It’s the cash flow/ fan base who you’re pushing out.

    Our linebacker coach was asked once if this tough linebacker knew the meaning of the word “fear”. He said “No, but I’ve seen his grades. He doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words!”

    Oklunk needs to find better words

  55. Can’t you guys JUST PLAY FOOTBALL?? It’s not even fun to watch anymore. Guess I’m going back to playing golf on Sunday’s. Good by NFL and good riddance all of you big crybaby millionaires who think by kneeling or sitting is gonna change things. NEWS FLASH: nothing is gonna change but your big ole fat paycheck. It’s just not fun anymore 😕

  56. happywalkhappydog says:
    October 13, 2017 at 9:59 am
    Glad to see the players not wimping out. Players have more power than tbey realize. You can not allow them to control you like that. I speak up with my job , speak up for yours. Only 1% of America has the talent to play in the NFL. Players , you are in control from here.

    ———–

    Really? 1% of America is over 30 million people. The NFL only needs 1700 people. If you are correct then these players have zero power.

  57. repulsive…go away with your bs…stop blaming other races…sickening..they will bench everyone..they will play 3rd stringers if they must. you don’t mess with their money

  58. what exactly is “social injustice”? & when will we know when we are there? this whole thing..its almost like the twilight zone where logic is outlawed & everyone must make decisions based on emotion. lunacy.

  59. I say…DISMANTLE THE NFL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let the Owners file Bankruptcy!!!!!!!!….Let the Players earn their millions elsewhere….!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Screw all the Players….they are NOT worth the Money they receive. Down with NFL Down with the Kneejerk Players!!!!!!!!!!!

  60. monarch76 says:
    October 13, 2017 at 11:09 am

    I’ve banded together with others to boycott these SOBS.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    This very website exists solely because of “these SOBS.” Your presence here clearly demonstrates you aren’t boycotting anything; you’re just Trump-talking.

  61. Maybe stop attacking the president? Maybe stop utilizing the life and death of us soldiers as your platform. Maybe your choice of delivery is hurting your cause.

  62. Not appreciating all of these financial threats. Its like The Fire Next Door. We all have the right and opportunity to protest about something that is guaranteed to upset somebody. I remember when they took Ali’s Boxing Licenses. A loud-mouthed, privileged ingrate that needed to be taught a lesson. I also remember taking a good size of my minimum-wage check to pay for a ticket to the after-affair Fundraiser at my college. Not the millions that he could have/should have made, but we helped. And I’ll be right there to help Colin and friends with this, if necessary.

  63. And after your 16 weeks are over will you be fighting the injustice from your mansions pool? Maybe I missed something but between the end and the beginning of the season where were you? In the beginning you’re point was well taken even the owners stood side by side. Now it has become a point of disrespect. Now let’s get out there and make a difference.

  64. I’m on board!! Would be great to see NFL viewership/income reduced 10-50% … slash salaries across the board … from owners to players, to media.

    Make it affordable for fans like it used to be. Take a knee, blame everyone, & make it happen!!

  65. Gee, none of the rednecks on here mind Trumpski making this a political thing whenever he wants, but if a player makes a statement about it they all jump on him. Tell ya what, why don’t you blowhards actually boycott the games, lol. But we know that isn’t going to happen don’t we.

  66. He’s right band together, then the major majority of the people that get you paid will band together and quit buying and watching then see how much money you and future over paid oppressed players get!!!!!

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