As four Chicago-area Democratic House members demand to know whether George McCaskey voted for the NFL’s new national anthem policy, outside linebacker Sam Acho said Tuesday he knows one thing that didn’t motivate the Bears chairman: kowtowing to President Donald Trump, who resumed his NFL feud by rescinding a White House invite to the Super Bowl champion Eagles.
Last month, owners declared that players on the field must stand for the anthem or face a fine. They have the option of remaining in the locker room. Acho said he wished owners had partnered with the players before making the decision.
“Some of the conversation has been, ‘Well, the owners made these rulings to appease the president,’ ” he said. “It’s hard to argue against that when you start looking at what’s being said. …
“I don’t think George McCaskey did, by any means. Because we’ve had conversations.”
Bears coach Matt Nagy said the Bears haven’t discussed the anthem issue in detail — “We’ll have a process, and it will include everybody,” he said — but said McCaskey has fostered a culture of communication.
“You’re talking about a guy that genuinely cares about each and every one of his players and their opinions,” Nagy said of McCaskey. “And then it’s about listening. We all need to listen.”
During the 2016 preseason, then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not rise for the anthem to protest police brutality against people of color and other issues, and some players followed suit.
When the NFL passed the anthem policy last month, commissioner Roger Goodell claimed the vote of owners was unanimous. ESPN later reported the vote was more informal.
In a letter dated May 30, Rep. Robin Kelly, Rep. Bobby Rush, Rep. Danny Davis and Rep. Jan Schakowsky asked how McCaskey voted and requested a meeting with the McCaskey family to discuss free speech. Kelly, Rush and Davis are the three House members from Illinois who are African-American.
“It’s disappointing that your franchise voted to silence the players you employ during this important national dialogue,” the letter states.
Through a team spokesman, McCaskey declined comment, just as he did upon the rule’s passing. In March, he said he’d told his players that “whatever they decided to do to do it together.” No Bears player has knelt during the anthem, though they occasionally locked arms in unity last year.
Acho said he hoped the politicians would combine the letter with actions.
“Writing letters is great,” he said. “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.’ ”
Monday night, Trump said the Super Bowl champion Eagles no longer were invited to the White House. Only a few players had decided to attend Tuesday’s event, he said before claiming that staying in the locker room during the anthem was “as disrespectful to our country as kneeling.”
The Eagles never knelt during the national anthem.
At the “Celebration of America” event held instead, Trump said Tuesday that “we love our country, we respect our flag, we always proudly stand for the national anthem.”
Bears safety Eddie Jackson called the cancellation of the Eagles’ trip “crazy,” saying his visit to President Obama two years ago with national champ Alabama was one of the highlights of his life.
Rescinding the Eagles’ offer is consistent with the president’s actions, Acho said.
“I’m not surprised because when you look at people’s history, you start seeing themes,” he said. “I heard a saying: ‘People are going to tell you who they are. It’s up to you to believe them or not.’ ”
Equating protest with a disrespect for the military, Acho said, is a “sophomoric” worldview.
“It’s up to people to use common sense, and use your intelligence,” he said.
“Use your brain, and think about what the players are actually standing for, or kneeling for, or putting a fist up in the air for.”