NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith says the league’s owners are less interested in showing respect for America than in showing they can control their employees with the new rule requiring players who are on the field for the national anthem to stand.
“It smacks as more of a desire to exert control rather than a desire to stand up and support the rights and freedoms that our country was founded on,” Smith said in an appearance on ESPN.
Smith also noted that some owners, including 49ers owner Jed York, Raiders owner Mark Davis and Jets owner Christopher Johnson, have made statements suggesting they don’t support the new rule. And he also said he wants to support the free speech of a player like Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a military veteran who defied coach Mike Tomlin last year by standing and saluting during the anthem while Tomlin kept the rest of the team in the locker room.
“It doesn’t appear to have the full support of all of the CEOs who own teams,” Smith said. “It punishes not only players who wish to protest but also could punish players who want to come out and stand and salute the flag.”
Whether the NFLPA has the ability to fight and change the new policy remains to be seen. But there’s no question that the union is not happy with having this rule forced upon its membership.