Amidst the national conversation, Bears chairman George McCaskey decided to be transparent and offer his thoughts on a National Anthem rule that has the NFL, and those who follow it, embroiled. The rule enacted on May 24th states that players must stand for the anthem if they are on the field, or risk being fined. If they wish not to stand for the anthem, they may choose to stay in their locker room.
So, it’s a means of accountability and reiterating what the Bears’ organization believes. McCaskey went into detail about this subject he feels strongly about Thursday with reporters at Halas Hall.
To make sure there wouldn’t be any confusion, McCaskey opened by maintaining that he clearly understands why players are taking knees during the National Anthem. It is not to disrespect the country, the flag, or song itself, but instead “police misconduct and social inequality.” On the notion that these protests were unpatriotic, McCaskey went on to say “this is not, and never was the case.”
Ever the encouraging man at the top of the franchise hierarchy, McCaskey made sure to note how prideful he is of his Bears’ players (though no Bear has taken a knee during this roughly two year controversy), and those around the NFL for fighting for something they believe in. “We are proud of our players for their social activism and their efforts to make the greatest city in the world better,” said McCaskey. It is also here where McCaskey thanked the Bears’ NFL Player’s Association representative, Sam Acho, for his efforts on and off the field.
“He (Acho) has helped to break down what seems to be innate distrust between players and management,” said McCaskey.
As to the actual application of the new National Anthem rule, McCaskey said “there is no easy answer to the anthem issue,” but called the rule “important while it is imperfect.” That’s because McCaskey believes in standing for the anthem, a stance that hasn’t changed since the beginning of the 2017 season. As was reported after, there was no formal vote on the policy, but the Bears are still in favor of it.
“We think players should stand and we encourage our players to stand,” said McCaskey. “We told our players that last September and we feel the same way.”
Asked if his statements were in response to a letter from four politicians in late May (that was only just publicly released this week), McCaskey stated that he never received the note from those four Democratic House members. Based on his assumption, “they’re trying to score political points” since it never reached him.
Finally, McCaskey denied the Bears’ support of the NFL’s National Anthem rule being related to pressure from President Donald Trump, as many have surmised with owners around the league. “Our support of this wasn’t really based on anything the President was doing or not doing, or saying or not saying.”
Nevertheless, McCaskey believes the protests during the anthem have had a positive ripple effect across the NFL and appreciates what players have accomplished.
“It has led to new social justice initiatives, not just at the league level, but with each club.”
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.