On players’ purpose in protesting during the anthem and the new NFL rule, from his opening statement
The first players to take a knee during the national anthem did so to bring attention to two issues — police misconduct and social inequality. There are legitimate issues that deserve discussion and action. As a country, we can do better. It’s part of the founding fathers’ charge to us to form a more perfect union. Commissioner Goodell said it very well, and it bears repeating — it was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case. The players’ actions were characterized by some and perceived by some as disrespectful to the flag, our country and our military, and what should be a unifying moment for our communities and our country has become in some instances another source of divisiveness.
There is no easy answer to the anthem issue. No one is entirely right, nor entirely wrong. The policy change enacted a couple of weeks ago by NFL teams, including the Bears, isn’t perfect. But we think it will return the anthem to what it should be — a unifying force — while providing an option to those players and other team personnel who choose not to stand.
On his personal belief about what players should do during the anthem
We think players should stand. We encourage our players to stand. I told them that last September and we feel the same way.
On potential disciplinary action for players who don’t stand during the anthem on the field
I’ve talked with Ted (Phillips) about that. I’ve talked with Sam (Acho) about that. We haven’t made a decision on that. I want to give that some thought and talk to them some more about it.
On what he would say to players who feel the rule infringes on their right to protest
We think it’s a workplace issue. I’ll leave the constitutional law questions to the constitutional law experts. I’m a recovering lawyer.
On his impression of how Trump has injected himself into the matter
Our support of this wasn’t based on anything the President was doing or not doing or saying or not saying. I understand that that is out there, but that didn’t really impact our position on the issue.
On his thoughts on the way it has become a Trump vs. the NFL issue after the most recent flap with the Eagles
After we won the Super Bowl, we waited 25 years to visit the White House and had a great time. It was an outstanding experience. Speaking as a citizen, I’m not sure the leader of the free world should be spending all of his time greeting championship teams and pardoning turkeys and things of that nature, but that’s just how the office is structured.
On the letter four members of Congress drafted to the Bears about the new rule
I haven’t received the letter. My mom hasn’t received the letter. I’m happy to have a constructive conversation with our duly elected representatives. But, to me, the fact that the letter was released to the media before we’ve even had a chance to see it suggests the motivation may be more making political points than having a constructive conversation. But if the Congresswoman and her colleagues want to have a constructive conversation, I’d be happy to participate in it.
On whether he has talked to Bears players about it yet
I talked to Sam. And I wanted to give his teammates ample opportunity to talk to me. I just caught Sam briefly in the hallway the other day and said, ‘Any of your teammates want to sit down and talk?’ And he said, ‘Quite frankly, their minds are on other things right now. They’re trying to learn a new system. They’re trying to get to know their teammates. They’re trying to find out where they fit. They’re trying to impress their coaches.’ So that’s top of mind right now. They still have plenty of time between now and Sept. 9.
On his visit with Sam Acho to a Louisiana penitentiary
It impacted me on two levels. One, again, how impressive Sam is as a person. Just watching him was amazing to me how he could connect with some of these guys. The other thing was the prison we visited in Angola, La., where a life sentence means you will probably be buried at the prison. To give people in a seemingly hopeless situation hope and how they went about it had a dramatic impact on me.
On whether he is concerned social justice issues will become less visible with the new rule
I don’t think so. The players still have a platform on many levels. You see it often in postgame interviews in the locker room. You ask the player a question and he says the first thing that he wants to communicate. And they still have ample opportunity to do that. More importantly, I think they have an opportunity to get out in the community, and again, Sam’s been great at marshaling his teammates and really trying to make a difference.
On his relationship with Acho and NFL social justice initiatives, from his statement
For me, one positive of the anthem debate is that I’ve gotten to know Sam better. He has helped to break down what seems to be innate mistrust between players and management. He has counseled me, debated me, challenged me. We haven’t always agreed, but when we have disagreed, it has been with respect. He has opened my eyes to some uncomfortable truths. And as difficult as it has been to confront them, I’m grateful to Sam for being patient with me and for not losing faith in me. We have been on many adventures together. I hope I’m a better person as a result, and I’m looking forward to our next adventure.
Another positive result of the anthem debate is that it has led to new social justice initiatives, not just at the league level but at each club, with players and management encouraged to collaborate and, with matching funds potentially up to half a million dollars per team per year, work together to continue to improve and make a difference in our communities. We are looking forward to launching that program at the Bears with Sam and his teammates.
I put this in the religion and politics forum because I know some like to avoid these kind of discussions. And I did not post this to debate the issue but more becasue I felt that George did a pretty good job of handling the issue and the questions. To me this particular "crisis" is a perfect example of how the extremists, both conservitive and liberal, have hijacked this country. If more people would stay resonable and not get drug into stupid fights by these extremists and the media that loves to whip them up things like this would hardly be a problem.
Feel free to add your thoughts, like I said, mostly I just felt that George deserved a bit of credit for how he has handled it.