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Chargers Lineman Urges NFL Players to have Unified Protest Plan

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Los Angeles Chargers tackle Russell Okung. Photo: John Hefti / Associated Press

Posting a 900-word letter on The Players’ Tribune, Russell Okung, a Los Angeles Chargers lineman, is urging the National Football League’s 1,700 players to take a unified stand against pressure from NFL team owners to curb demonstrations during the national anthem before games.

“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, lamenting that the original message of the protests, which were started last season by Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, had gotten muddled and had exposed divisions among players, fans and owners.

“Okung’s manifesto takes NFL owners to task for making decisions on anthem demonstrations, which have typically involved players kneeling or sitting during the anthem, without broadly consulting players,” Ken Belson comments in The New York Times. “The owners plan to meet next week to discuss the demonstrations, which were originally intended to draw attention to racial inequality and police shootings of African-Americans. But that initial message has become blurred, and owners could be prepared to issue restrictions on the protests, especially after drawing condemnation from President Trump and a number of fans in recent weeks.”

Meanwhile, the NFL announced it has no plans to mandate players to stand for the U.S. national anthem, but will rather present a possible solution on how to end the controversial protests when it meets with team owners next week. Commissioner Roger Goodell, along with the head of the NFL Players Association, will meet with the owners from Oct. 17-18 in New York.

“Goodell has a plan that he is going to present to owners about how to use our platform to both raise awareness and make progress on issues of social justice and equality in this country,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said on a conference call. “What we don’t have is a proposal that changes our policy, we don’t have something that mandates anything. That’s clear. If that was the case I doubt the head of the NFLPA would have put a joint statement out with us.”

This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.

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