Illinois congresswoman calls for transparency from Bears on NFL anthem policy
In a letter to Chicago Bears ownership, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) calls for Virginia McCaskey, principle owner of the franchise, to give more clarity on how the team plans to enforce the NFL’s new anthem policy. She is the first member of Congress to ask for transparency from a team regarding the new rules.
According to a draft of the letter obtained by SB Nation, Kelly wants to know how Bears ownership voted on the policy, how they intend to enforce it, and what the team’s overall policy is on free speech, noting that teams around the league play in stadiums that are largely paid for with public funding.
“Given the investment of taxpayer dollars, the NFL and its team should be held to the highest possible public standard, especially when it comes to protecting and defending the First Amendment rights on players, employees, and fans,” Kelly states in the letter.
She mentions that the Bears’ roster is 68 percent black, that the NFL is 70 percent black, and that the team receives a large amount of support from communities of color.
Kelly, who comes from a military and police family, has also called for a meeting with McCaskey to address concerns from fans and players. In a statement to SB Nation, she says:
”I’m an NFL fan, but the League’s new anthem policy is both disappointing and concerning. We have an American institution, that is the beneficiary of millions in taxpayer dollars, actively restricting the expression of the First Amendment. I hope that a meeting with Mrs. Halas McCaskey will constructively address player and fan concerns about free speech and feeling safe to speak out in our communities about the issue of police brutality.”
Kelly also wants to know whether the team will issue similar penalties and fines for players who commit actual crimes, like possession of a firearm or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The newly adopted policy from the NFL would fine any player or personnel who fails to “show respect” for the the national anthem, which includes kneeling or sitting as many players have done over the past season.