Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 77d

Jets undecided on future anthem protests

One day after his players locked arms during the national anthem, New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles applauded the manner in which the team responded to President Donald Trump’s criticism of the NFL.

Bowles said Monday the team will have a discussion about whether to continue to lock arms for upcoming games.

“I thought they did a very good thing [Sunday],” Bowles told reporters on a conference call. “I supported them wholeheartedly. I was one of them locking arms.”

Bowles also commented for the first time on Trump’s controversial remarks.

“My personal reaction, honestly, in my mind, to me, it’s no different than a fan saying something when you’re coming through the tunnel,” he said. “You’ve got to put that out of mind. The biggest problem here is the issues. If you focus on the issues, no matter who’s saying what doesn’t matter. Whether it’s the president, whether it’s another player in another sport, whether it’s a coach, whether it’s a fan, it really doesn’t matter if you don’t focus on the issues.

“The issues are the things that happened in Charlottesville, you’ve got hurricane victims here and there ... you’ve got to focus on the issues because the he-said/she-said, the Twitter beef and all that stuff doesn’t really matter. It’s really not what we hear.

“We locked arms because we’re united. We’re trying to show we can get things done in the country, and we unite together. We’re trying to show unity within our team. We’re trying to show unity for the league, and we’re trying to show unity for everything that’s inclusive.

“I’m not a big comment guy, no matter who said what and what said who. If it’s not about solutions, the problems don’t really matter if you’re not trying to find a solution.”

Bowles, who addressed the controversy Saturday night in an emotional team meeting, squashed a report that said some players on the team were discouraged from kneeling during the anthem.

“Not to my knowledge,” he said. “Everybody that had a chance to speak, spoke. Everybody had a chance to voice their opinion. If somebody felt that way they sure didn’t say it, so I don’t think so.

“It wasn’t me mandating anything,” Bowles said. “It was a conversation. It bothered some people that those comments were said [by Trump], and we discussed it as a team. ... We tried to do the right thing and the smartest way to go about it, most importantly, and not to get caught up in any of the trash talk.”

The Jets have an unusual dynamic because owner Woody Johnson works for the Trump administration as the ambassador to the United Kingdom. His younger brother, Christopher Johnson, the acting owner, stood with the players on the sideline during Sunday’s anthem.

Quarterback Josh McCown lauded Christopher Johnson and Bowles.

“Those moments are opportunities for leaders to step up, and they certainly did that,” McCown said. “That, more than anything, is what galvanizes guys, when they see their leaders step up. It was a cool moment, one I think is great for our league that we can come together over this and have each other’s back.”

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