Former Bengals say owner told them not to kneel

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The day after President Donald Trump told NFL owners to fire any “son of a bitch” who kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality, the Bengals were like many teams which suddenly had an important choice to make.

And their decision included the input of owner Mike Brown, who players say insisted they not kneel, to the point of pleading them not to for fear of alienating customers.

Elise Jesse of WLWT talked to a number of former Bengals, some who were willing to be named and some who weren’t, who told the story of the players-only meeting in Cincinnati, and a follow-up meeting at the team hotel in Green Bay the night before the game.

“I always said I was not going to talk about that until I was done playing officially, but I really don’t care,” former safety George Iloka said. “A lot of people, myself in particular, wanted to kneel. It was a big issue and that was weighing heavily on my heart, it was weighing heavy on my mind, and obviously it was weighing heavy on a lot of people’s hearts and minds across the NFL, and across the nation particularly with African Americans. It wasn’t just me that felt some kind away about that.”

Iloka said after the player meeting, the Bengals were split on what to do, and he felt like he didn’t have the support of white teammates.

“The meeting left pretty much just like, the African American players feeling like we want to kneel, and then it was the white players telling us, ‘You guys don’t need to do that.’  It’s almost like saying ‘Go be oppressed somewhere else and keep it out of my sight.’ That sort of thing. So, you know it was like, I understand that you don’t get how we feel and we are not asking you to join us, but just stop telling us not to.”

That led to the unusual instance of the owner joining a team meeting the night before the game. One player said Brown told the players not to kneel because he feared fan backlash, and another said he “really begged.”

Iloka said the remarks were brief, and that Brown tried to leave the room quickly, before he stood up to speak.

“My heart was beating because he’s the owner, and you already saw what happened to [Colin] Kaepernick,” Iloka said. “I said, ‘but Mike, . . .’ and he had to turn back around and I just started telling him how I felt and why this is important to us and what it means to us and why we feel like we want to kneel, and he wasn’t trying to hear it.”

The Bengals responded to the report with a written statement: “Mr. Brown met with all players while the team was in Green Bay. A positive and open discussion ensued. Mr. Brown shared with players his preference, but said he was not directing them what to do.”

The Bengals ultimately did not kneel that week, opting to stand side by side with arms linked during the anthem. Whether that remains the case this year remains to be seen, but the issue has taken on a new momentum around the league, a momentum which might cause owners such as Brown to reconsider previous stances.

74 responses to “Former Bengals say owner told them not to kneel

  1. He really has no other option at this point but to accept it. If he doesn’t he would probably be forced to sell the business.

  2. Go be oppressed somewhere else and keep it out of my sight.’
    ——–
    You’re a millionaire paid to play a game. You are NOT oppressed. This country went soft.

  3. Kneeling is selfish. just brings attention to yourself. Don’t believe that? What has all that kneeling accomplished except media attention. Nothing changed or they wouldn’t be rioting. Selfishness….

  4. Of course, being the Bungles, they dis not practice football all week. The entire week was dedicated to whether or not they were going to kneel, how they were going to kneel, and on what part of the sideline. They lost by 36.

  5. Per the employeer/employee relationship Brown was well within his right on how to tell players to proceed while in uniform.

  6. Alternate headline: “Business owner asks employees to refrain from making political demonstrations while at work.”

  7. Privately owned teams is an outdated idea.

    At this point the players could form their own league and end the NFL once and for all.

    Anyone want to buy stock in the People’s Football League?

  8. And this is why players dont wanna play for mike brown. He cares more about money than people. So happy hes letting his kids run things more.

  9. Players do not have a right to protest WHILE AT WORK.

    I would be suspended/terminated by HR if I tried any of that junk at my workplace. If my owners says I need to wear a suit everyday for work, I wear a suit to work. IT’S THAT SIMPLE.

  10. That’s his right ,it’s not a crime ,he writes the checks etc ,etc, etc ,so just everybody relax !

  11. I’m all for athletes kneeling for their belief but how about them giving the Black Power raised fist after a TD, or sack or first down, etc…instead of pounding their chest like they did it all by themselves without the benefit of their teammates?

  12. Good chance games will be played without fans this year. If so, onus shifts to the TV networks. Players could kneel all they want, if no one pans a camera on them, no one will see it. Perhaps the question should be presented to NBC, ESPN, FOX, CBS, etc. Same issue even if fans are in the stands, I guess. Do you show the players kneeling?

  13. Good for the Bengals owner. Too much subversion and violence going on these days. I challenge people like Malcolm Jenkins and Mike Florio to demonstrate how kneeling will actually elevate African Americans. Elevation comes through positive, meaningful actions, not negative victim like behavior.

  14. Shocked, I tell ya shocked, Brown that he acted that way. One ,if not the worst owner of a NFL team. His team hasn’t been relevant in 30 years. Always starts and stops at the TOP.

  15. Sounds like Mike Brown has been to Wisconsin a few times. There’s nothing more respectful of the flag than drinking at 12 pm in the afternoon, covered in cheese, while the flag is sideways and touching the ground. You don’t want to disrupt such a solemn moment.

  16. darrenkod says:
    June 23, 2020 at 8:12 am
    Players do not have a right to protest WHILE AT WORK.

    I would be suspended/terminated by HR if I tried any of that junk at my workplace. If my owners says I need to wear a suit everyday for work, I wear a suit to work. IT’S THAT SIMPLE.
    ________________

    Would you get fired for wearing a black lives matter tie?

  17. tigerhawkeye says:
    June 23, 2020 at 7:32 am
    Alternate headline: “Business owner asks employees to refrain from making political demonstrations while at work.”
    ______________

    Saying “stop killing us” isn’t political.

  18. Headline says he was ‘told’ not to kneel. Article says he was ‘begged’ not to kneel. Pretty big difference.

  19. tmolney says:
    June 23, 2020 at 6:55 am
    Kneeling is selfish. just brings attention to yourself. Don’t believe that? What has all that kneeling accomplished except media attention. Nothing changed or they wouldn’t be rioting. Selfishness….

    ———————

    The irony.

  20. “The meeting left pretty much just like, the African American players feeling like we want to kneel, and then it was the white players telling us, ‘You guys don’t need to do that.’

    Okay – credibility check. Name those white players.

  21. Whenever there is a story about kneeling on PFT or almost anywhere else there are always the standard comments from presumably white people that if they kneeled at work they would be fired or “they are millionaires, they are not oppressed.”

    I am white and know I can never walk in the shoes of an African-American but I can see with my own eyes and hear the stories. White Americans have no idea what it is like to live with oppression whether it is political, racial, religious or ethnic.

    If you don’t think there is racial hatred in this country just look at the incident at Talladega where a noose was placed in Bubba Wallace’s garage. That is a message to all people about the mentality that exists all over this country. Kaepernick saw it four years ago and created an awareness of it and paid the price. Other players did too. That’s what happens when you feel you live in a system of oppression. All the kneeling athletes knew they risked being fired, but they did it because it was more important.

    If you don’t think there is systemic racism in this country, go back to sleep. If you choose to accept it and want to do something about and you are white, it’s pretty easy–just listen. Read some books. Talk to people. It’s pretty easy. You risk nothing. This country is changing–slowly–perhaps too slowly as seen by the comments on this another pages. You can start now or you can stay put while the world changes around you.

  22. It’s his team and he made a choice just stop already he wasn’t the only owner saying respect the flag

  23. A season without fans might allow the NFL to get out of the pickle it’s put itself in with this patriotic signaling before every game.

    If there are no fans in the stadium, there’s no reason to start the game with the national anthem. After a season of normalcy, perhaps fans at home will realize it’s kind of strange for a stadium full of people, all from the same country, to sing their national anthem in unison.

  24. At this point kneeling will almost look like you are caving to those who want to give you crap for kneeling, might be better to stand and say we are still here and the progress being made now isn’t going away.

  25. he17thearlofoxford says:
    June 23, 2020 at 7:54 am

    At this point the players could form their own league and end the NFL once and for all.
    _______
    And there it is folks. The funniest thing you’ll read all day.

  26. lgw91s says:
    June 23, 2020 at 9:11 am
    “The meeting left pretty much just like, the African American players feeling like we want to kneel, and then it was the white players telling us, ‘You guys don’t need to do that.’

    Okay – credibility check. Name those white players.
    ____________

    Why? So the media can attack them?

  27. assharvester says:
    June 23, 2020 at 6:15 am
    He really has no other option at this point but to accept it. If he doesn’t he would probably be forced to sell the business.—————————————————– He like the majority of Americans does not accept this. I find it funny that a small portion of the population . Thinks we all think this way.

  28. > You’re a millionaire paid to play a game. You are NOT oppressed. This country went soft.

    It truly is amazing how out of touch some of these players are with reality. A guy being paid millions to play a kid’s game calling himself oppressed is as patently ridiculous as Adrian Peterson comparing playing in the NFL to modern day slavery.

  29. the17thearlofoxford says:
    June 23, 2020 at 7:54 am

    At this point the players could form their own league and end the NFL once and for all.
    ——————————————
    LOLLOLLOL!!
    Like the players would fund this using their own money or sign for loans to start up the league.

  30. Brown was not asking to stop because it’s disrespectful to a flag. He ask them to stop because it’s disrespectful to his and their wallets.

  31. bkinacti0n says:
    June 23, 2020 at 9:24 am
    lgw91s says:
    June 23, 2020 at 9:11 am
    “The meeting left pretty much just like, the African American players feeling like we want to kneel, and then it was the white players telling us, ‘You guys don’t need to do that.’

    Okay – credibility check. Name those white players.
    ____________

    Why? So the media can attack them?

    __________________

    Actually, I call BS. I really can’t see such a divisive line in the locker room, where white players are referring to their African American teammates as “you guys”.

  32. Wondering if Brown was in Tulsa recently?

    Love you George, and would kneel beside you if I could.

  33. javagold says:
    June 23, 2020 at 9:13 am

    They are probably saying they are at work because well they are actually at work. If you want fairness then you get no platform at work. Like everyone else in the world. So then you say hey look, there’s a racist. So, there are racists in the world. We know that already. That still doesn’t make the fact you are at work protesting right. Then you say, go to sleep if you don’t see racial injustice. OK. How about provide some stats or facts on the injustice. Statistically, you’re not being killed by whites or police. Factually, the cases referenced are criminal cases with mitigating circumstances. Internet and bandwagon don’t make things true.

  34. Wow. Your boss tells his employees not to conduct political protests at the office while you’re on the clock. How rude (sarcasm).

  35. Every time this comes up, people say, “I don’t have a problem with the kneeling (a lie), my problem is that they’re doing it at work (mind your own business), if I protested at work, I’d get fired.”

    Just because your job/employer sucks, doesn’t mean players can’t kneel.

  36. tmolney says:
    June 23, 2020 at 6:55 am
    Kneeling is selfish. just brings attention to yourself. Don’t believe that? What has all that kneeling accomplished except media attention. Nothing changed or they wouldn’t be rioting. Selfishness….

    —————

    Your comment is selfish. Don’t believe that? What has your comment accomplished except getting you attention. Nothing changed or there wouldn’t be more dumb comments like yours. Selfishness…

  37. thewanderer says:
    June 23, 2020 at 10:10 am

    Every time this comes up, people say, “I don’t have a problem with the kneeling (a lie), my problem is that they’re doing it at work (mind your own business), if I protested at work, I’d get fired.”

    Just because your job/employer sucks, doesn’t mean players can’t kneel.

    ——————————————————————————

    Actually much more complicated than your employer sucks. That would be every employer in the world because employers have things called customers.

  38. what really stands out
    most of the white players, sided with Trump
    racism overcomes team unity
    these white players, now that they are millionaires
    don’t give a crap about some black kid, being raised in the slums
    getting the crap kicked out of him by society

  39. Ratings for sports shows are not only at all time lows but they are being kicked out of the top 150.

  40. bkinacti0n says: “Would you get fired for wearing a black lives matter tie?”
    ———————-

    ANY type protesting while at work is not tolerated.

    I would expect the SAME punishment for wearing a “White Lives Matter Too” tie.

  41. “Don’t embarrass me, children! That’s MY job and I can do it just fine by myself – just look at our record year after year!”

  42. tmolney says:
    June 23, 2020 at 6:55 am
    Kneeling is selfish. just brings attention to yourself. Don’t believe that? What has all that kneeling accomplished except media attention. Nothing changed or they wouldn’t be rioting. Selfishness….

    —————

    Why didn’t it change anything? America is 76% white and most white people IGNORED that the 13% of the population were/are being oppressed.
    It’s the reaction to change, especially change that makes you have to admit that America has NEVER BEEN GREAT, and cannot be great when you don’t treat everyone equally.

    The CONSTITUTION says all men are created equal, and this country hasn’t been able to abide by the Constitution since it was WRITTEN.

    Hypocrites… go ahead and dodge the fact that their protest is JUST and VALID, instead make it about a flag (piece of cloth), a job (where you’re a slave to the owners), or ANYTHING else except for what the truth is…

    FACT – People of color have been oppressed for over 400 years in our country, even before we became a country.

    Chew on that you closet racists.

  43. javagold says:
    June 23, 2020 at 9:13 am

    “I am white and know I can never walk in the shoes of an African-American…”
    ______________

    That line is probably one of the more intelligent things I’ve read in the PFT comments section in a while.

  44. It would be important to note here that Iloka was not calling Mike Brown a racist, he was just telling us that Mike Brown is afraid to lose money. We all already knew that.

  45. For those of you who don’t care for what I wrote (I know there are many of you keyboard racists) the background I am coming from as I form my opinions;

    I am a 56 year old white man, grew up in Kentucky and Cincinnati. 37 years of serving the US Navy, 20 years active duty (a decorated disabled and retired veteran, 17 years working as a contractor still serving the US Navy.

    Been literally all over the world, and have seen MANY peoples being oppressed, and then I come home to see the absolutely inane “Murica is the greatest, Make America Great Again” BS.

    Our countries history started with the Jamestown Landing… and they had black slaves.

    We declared our independence from England… with slaves all over the place.

    We fought amongst ourselves with the civil war almost a hundred years after declaring independence… slavery being a main point of that. We all KNOW that the KKK and other racist fools made sure to keep people of color down.

    People of color served, fought, and died in the World Wars… yet could not sit, eat, drink, or prosper because they were “secretly” oppressed by white people. NOT just in the south, but throughout our country. They KNEW they wouldn’t be treated as equal, but they STILL died for our country. That’s why I refer to the flag as a piece of cloth.

    Civil Rights Act in 1964, look at all the violence, hate, ignorance, and “silent” racism that still existed so badly that we had to pass an act to PREVENT it! How the hell can we be great if this occurred?

    Do ANY of you realize that the ghettos, slum, and barrios in this nation have been in the EXACT same places for HUNDREDS of years? The population of these places is 88% people of color and that has been relatively the same for HUNDREDS of years.
    As recently as 2018, 50% of black children LIVED in these areas or areas considered high poverty.Only 12 % of white people do…

    For those ignoramuses who asked for PROOF of oppression, here it is. Books are a really cool thing that you can ope, read, and learn something.

    Try it, you might like it.

    Hypocrites…

  46. jdeezman says:
    June 23, 2020 at 12:00 pm
    ————————————-

    Politicizing and providing unverifiable anecdotal evidence doesn’t make things true. We’re talking about an owner not wanting to hurt his business. It doesn’t matter if it’s animal abuse, crimes, tigers, etc. Poverty is different than racism. Crime is difference than racism. For somebody who claims to be a book reader, you might want to stop with the ad hominem. Poverty is not oppression.

  47. Players only want to kneel during the National Anthem. When they score points you don’t see them kneeling. They dance and usually have some practiced routine with several other players. Imagine!

  48. The difference between the NFL( and NBA) and the usual employer-employee relationship is that owners are more dispensable then say Watson or Mahomes or the entire DB corps. See what happened to the panthers owner. Or the clippers owner. No owner will survive if they don’t respect the players rights for peaceful protest.

  49. If you feel you rights are being infringed in this country our flag represents you! Men and women of every nationality died to guarantee your rights would not be infringed. You don’t kneel in protest against our flag. You carry that flag into your fight, that’s what it’s for. If your rights are being infringed you pick up that flag and you carry the souls of every dead soldier that died to secure your rights as Americans and you don’t let it go until it’s pried from your cold dead hands. When our flag comes to a fight it says the people carrying it are represented by the rights it stands for and those rights will be respected.

  50. FACT: Bengal owner mike brown is only about the money
    FACT: I am NOT a fan of the legendary cheapskate mike brown

    THAT SAID… Bengals owner mike brown (because of good value for dollar)
    has signed players who would have never gotten an nfl contract anywhere else.

    Those players (some of the most infamously grimy) are epicly loyal to mike brown
    as players and in retirement.

    The reason the players listened to mike brown is the fact
    that legendary HOF coach Paul Brown (mike’s father) signed black players
    BEFORE Jackie Robinson.

    Paul Brown had black players at Massillon High School YEARS earlier
    (… and… at OHIO STATE and in the military).

    Was Paul Brown a civil rights pioneer?!?
    Not really. History said he did it to field a better team.

    What is more American than identifying the most talent
    and giving them a chance REGARDLESS of color?!?

    THAT would be equality.
    Giving a chance to someone based on their abilities.
    NOT ignoring them due to skin color.

    Recently passed HOF Bobby Mitchell saw Paul Brown tell a hotel owner that his black players would stay in the same hotel as their white teammates.

    GOOGLE: Bobby Mitchell “No, our team stays together”

    Bengals owner mike brown didn’t argue against it for any other reason than money.

  51. 1touchdown1hr1goal says:
    June 23, 2020 at 12:17 pm
    _____
    Politicizing and providing unverifiable anecdotal evidence doesn’t make things true. We’re talking about an owner not wanting to hurt his business. It doesn’t matter if it’s animal abuse, crimes, tigers, etc. Poverty is different than racism. Crime is difference than racism. For somebody who claims to be a book reader, you might want to stop with the ad hominem. Poverty is not oppression.

    It’s NOT politicizing and they are MOST DEFINITELY verifiable facts… NOT anecdotal evidence at all. Why do you try and twist irrefutable facts as anecdotal evidence? I do have to thank you for showing you true racist nature up front, going to be great to see you and your kind afraid in the very near future.

    OPPRESSION is racism, keeping people of color in poverty is SYSTEMIC RACISM by OPPRESSION.

    Obviously we have a semi-intelligent racist on our hands right here. Learns just enough to attempt to skew PROVABLE FACTS into a semi-political argument. Sorry, I am not one of your white power brothers who will swallow your drivel hook, line, and sinker. You can run along now and try to disprove facts and proof to those of your ilk.

  52. Imagine that, “fans” on an internet blog comment site acting like they have some say in how a person can feel simply because they make a decent salary. If you need to kneel, kneel. Mike Brown can do that thing with a rope..

  53. phinjunky1985 says:
    June 23, 2020 at 12:48 pm
    If you feel you rights are being infringed in this country our flag represents you! Men and women of every nationality died to guarantee your rights would not be infringed. You don’t kneel in protest against our flag. You carry that flag into your fight, that’s what it’s for. If your rights are being infringed you pick up that flag and you carry the souls of every dead soldier that died to secure your rights as Americans and you don’t let it go until it’s pried from your cold dead hands. When our flag comes to a fight it says the people carrying it are represented by the rights it stands for and those rights will be respected.
    ___

    I respect your opinion, but when a segment of our population isn’t treated as equals and don’t receive the same treatment or rights, then what?

    As a disabled veteran, I did not fight for the flag, I fought for the constitution and the people.

    The OATH I took, and have never been relieved from goes as follows;

    I, jdeezman, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (So help me God).”

    Do you see the flag anywhere in there? I don’t, and although that flag DOES mean something to me as well, it is NOT as important as 400 years of oppression to American citizens who have truly NEVER been treated as equals.

  54. People who think this isn’t about the anthem or flag clearly haven’t been paying attention these last four years. Kaepernick said it himself that he would not kneel for a flag that oppresses people of color. Rioters destroyed a statue of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the national anthem itself. Imagine that? They’re also vandalizing presidential monuments and other historical artifacts. This is creating nothing but more and more division. Ironically, the same people who don’t mind seeing people burn our American flag are the same ones who get pissed when someone displays a Confederate flag…

  55. jdeezman says:
    June 23, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    It’s NOT politicizing and they are MOST DEFINITELY verifiable facts…

    —————————-

    Your personal bias and anecdotal evidence are verifiable facts? Do you read or just type things in CAPS to make things true?

    —————————————-
    jdeezman says:
    June 23, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    I do have to thank you for showing you true racist nature up front, going to be great to see you and your kind afraid in the very near future.

    —————————————–

    Laughable and disgustingly ignorant. A person believes that a business owner has a right to run his business and not upset his customers is racist?! Or because you don’t seem to know the difference between oppression, racism, crime or poverty? In it’s simplest form generalizing, labeling people is wrong.

    —————————————–
    jdeezman says:
    June 23, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    OPPRESSION is racism, keeping people of color in poverty is SYSTEMIC RACISM by OPPRESSION.

    —————————————–

    Wrong again. Oppression is Oppression. Racism is racism. Who’s keeping people of color in Poverty? The business guy running his business or the player kneeling because there was an international crime with mitigating circumstances? You lost everyone there.

    —————————————–
    jdeezman says:
    June 23, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    Obviously we have a semi-intelligent racist on our hands right here. Learns just enough to attempt to skew PROVABLE FACTS into a semi-political argument. Sorry, I am not one of your white power brothers who will swallow your drivel hook, line, and sinker. You can run along now and try to disprove facts and proof to those of your ilk.
    ——————————————

    Wow. More ad hominem. Semi-intelligent. Ok the one laying out points vs. the one who’s labeling, generalizing,’n attacking. Not hard to see who’s valid here. Provable facts. Ok. We’ll all hold our breaths for those facts. You certainly wouldn’t be my white power brother because number one, I’m from Laos and have no political affiliation and number two nothing even remotely was mentioned about one race or another. Good luck in life.

  56. Bruce Arena, former US men’s soccer coach doesn’t think we should play the national anthem before sporting events.

    I agree. I’m not sure what the point is. And please, don’t say to display patriotism. Showing up to an NFL game is hardly a patriotic act.

    Sports are not some civic or military event. They’re entertainment. People don’t sing the national anthem before other entertainment events.

    At the Olympics, or events when nations are competing against each other (e.g., the World Cup), then yeah, I can see it.

  57. Sell the team and move it. Cincy only got a team cause Paul Brown was booted out of the Browns so he convoked the AFL to give him. team, they wanted his name recognition. Well guess what, times have changed. that racist city doesn’t deserve them, poorly run since the early 90’s. Give them to SD, STL, or Oakland!

  58. If a cop can kneel on a black man’s neck for 9 minutes until he’s dead, then I don’t see why players can’t kneel in protest.

  59. Anti-Racism folks typically do not see kneeling during the Anthem as disrespectful, especially those who have studied and in particular, have dissected the 3rd verse…wow! So let’s keep all of these arguments in their appropriate context. We all need to work together or it will be the end of us all.

  60. Appeal to emotion argument. I guess it’s hard for some people to understand you’re at work. The kneeling that took place was before this video. It has nothing to do with being black. Blame everything on race if you want. If there was injustice at the hands of the police it is nothing to do with your employer and is separate.

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