Russell Okung urges players to band together against NFL, Trump’s anthem pressure

Darin Gantt
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

If the NFL and its team owners think players are just going to go along quietly with whatever they decide to make their national anthem problem go away, they could be in for a bit o a surprise.

Chargers tackle Russell Okung has written a letter to all the league’s players that he’s going to post online, asking them to take a unified stand against any pressure from the league to curb demonstrations during the anthem.

“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, according to a copy of the letter provided to the New York Times.

Owners will meet next week, and how to handle protests during the anthem (not of the anthem) will be a central topic. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dolpins owner Stephen Ross have already sent down word that their players should stand, after pressure from the White House.

Okung said he wanted to reach out to players because he feared the initial point of protests — racial inequality and police brutality — has been lost in the bluster of President Donald Trump’s speeches and tweets.

“I’m about shifting the narrative. We can’t be distracted by what he is trying to do,” Okung said of Trump. “We’re honing our voice. We’re not unified against Trump, we’re unified against social injustice.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo this week making clear the league wanted players to stand, while trying to walk the fine line of not alienating labor.

And Okung’s letter (which has been posted in full at the Players Tribune) makes clear that might be trickier than imagined.

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