FLORHAM PARK, N.J -- It hasn't happened to the New York Jets yet, but coach Todd Bowles said he'd support a player who decided to protest during the national anthem.
“It’s their individual right," Bowles said Wednesday after practice. "We don’t have a rule book on what’s right to protest and not protest. We don’t know those things until the course of time, whether it’s sitting for the anthem, whether it’s raising a fist, whether it’s speaking out, whether it’s a walk to Washington ... who’s to say whose protest is good or bad?"
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem last season, and other players followed. There could be more protests this weekend at preseason games, considering the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist march and subsequent protests led to a woman being killed when a man drove a car into a group protesting the original march.
Bowles, one of eight African-American head coaches in the NFL, said he's not aware of any players on his team planning to protest on Saturday night in Detroit. He said he discusses current events with the team, but they haven't talked about Charlottesville as a group.
"I’m against racism, segregation and all that other stuff, but how do we come to an answer? I don’t have that answer," Bowles said. "How do we come to a common ground? I don’t have that answer.
“It’s a hell of a debate and a hell of a topic," he continued. "It needs to stop. I don’t have the answers to that, but who’s to say whose protest is good or bad? That’s just the way they feel and it’s their right to express it.”
The Jets have a unique dynamic because their owner, Woody Johnson, works for President Donald Trump. Johnson was nominated by Trump -- and recently confirmed by the Senate -- as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Defensive end Leonard William said he'd have no problem if a teammate protests as long as he keeps his mind on the job at hand.
"I would support them," Williams said. "Everyone has freedom of speech. Everyone has the rights to do what they want to do. But, at the same time, I would try to tell them to stay focused on us."