Four Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives ripped a pair of Chicago Bears executives who they said backed the NFL's new policy requiring players to stand during the national anthem.
Reps. Robin Kelly, Jan Schakowsky, Bobby Rush and Danny Davis — all from Chicago-area districts — wrote in a letter to Bears owner Virginia Halas McCaskey and chairman George McCaskey that it's "disappointing that your franchise voted to silence the players you employ, during this important national dialogue."
President Donald Trump blasted anthem protesters in the NFL last fall and lauded the league’s new policy requiring players to stand during the anthem. Players can also remain inside locker rooms during the anthem as part of the new rule.
Anthem kneeling began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 2016 to protest police brutality and the treatment of people of color in America.
"The Chicago Bears have a current roster which is 68 percent African American in a league which is 70 percent black," the lawmakers' letter continued. "You benefit from the support of so many fans of color who share player concerns on the issue of police brutality. One can argue that there is a time for protest, or that we should keep politics out of football, but did your ownership take into account the politics that inspired, and the social impact that would result from this new anthem policy?”
Some sticking points
It's been reported that NFL owners didn't hold a formal vote on the new anthem policy but instead offered a show of hands to test its support, and league spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN that there were zero nays. "That was considered a vote," McCarthy added to the sports network.
Two owners — the 49ers' Jed York and the Oakland Raiders' Mark Davis — reportedly abstained from voting.
So while the four U.S. representatives say in their letter that the Bears' "franchise voted to silence the players you employ," they nevertheless ask elsewhere if the team's executives knew about the anthem vote prior to the March owners meeting.
“Did you vote to affirm this policy, did you abstain or were you not present at the meeting?” the lawmakers asked the McCaskeys.
What else does the letter say?
“The only way that the city of Chicago, our state, and this nation can move beyond this problem, is by engaging in a constructive, respectful, representative discourse that helps communities heal by acknowledging injustices and listening to one another’s voice," the letter noted. "This is not the time to silence the aggrieved.”
The letter added that “players who kneel silently in no way hamper the ability of the game to be played, nor do they diminish stadium security, business operations, or quality of gameplay."
How did the Bears' execs respond?
George McCaskey declined to comment on the letter, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
How did one Bears' player respond?
Bears outside linebacker Sam Acho, vice president of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, told the Sun-Times on Tuesday he hopes the lawmakers combine the letter with action.
“Writing letters is great,” Acho told the paper. “I’d also say, ‘OK, what are you doing to make an impact?’ If you’re doing something that’s making an impact, let me hop on board with that, too. So it’s a ‘both and’ thing, not an ‘either or.’”
No Bears player has kneeled during the anthem, the Sun-Times said, adding that some occasionally locked arms in unity last season.
The war of words between Trump and NFL players over the anthem issue escalated this week after the president rescinded his invitation to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to visit the White House after the team was set to send only a few players to meet Trump.
Trump noted that the Eagles "disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country."