In the aftermath of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police, New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson joined a virtual team meeting last week and led players, coaches and executives through a discussion on how they can address social inequalities and use their platform to unite communities. He gave out his cellphone number and told the others to call him anytime.
"He expressed his concerns and pretty much let us know that anything we needed, he was there to help," middle linebacker C.J. Mosley said Wednesday, noting the online chat meant a lot to him and his teammates.
Johnson has taken a pro-player stance since taking over the Jets in 2017, especially on social justice issues, and there's no reason to believe he will change in the coming months. But that doesn't mean the Jets have everything figured out.
Mosley, one of the most respected players in the Jets' locker room, said the lines of communication must remain open as the team and the NFL navigate what could be a tumultuous season. By that, he meant players talking to players, and players talking to ownership. At some point, he said, there needs to be a players-only meeting on whether Jets players will kneel during the national anthem.
"That's something we [as Jets] have to do because it's going to come up again," Mosley said. "Some guys are definitely going to kneel again. Some guys won't.
"I hope the NFL and the owners can look back at that situation [in 2017] and make sure they handle it the right way. I would think the NFL and the owners and the coaches would have our backs 100 percent for support. We have to have that conversation to see where everybody's mindset is."
Mosley, who played for the Baltimore Ravens during the 2017 season, recalled the "raw emotions" of Sept. 24, 2017, when about two dozen members of the Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars knelt during the anthem at a game in London. Because of the 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff, it was the first NFL game to be played after President Donald Trump had sharply criticized players for taking a knee. Mosley opted to kneel that day.
Reflecting on that day in London, Mosley said players "were in the locker room talking and crying about things that were said and how we felt about the situation. There were a lot of raw emotions going into that game. Nobody was really focusing on football; we were talking about what was going on."
Mosley hopes to use that experience to help the Jets, though he's not sure what actions he will take in September.
"I feel that as a team, as a leader, I need to talk to my teammates first and talk to coach [Adam] Gase and talk to the owner," he said.
Throughout the 2017 season, the Jets presented a unified front, standing and locking arms with one another. Johnson, who spoke to players individually before the Jets' Sept. 24 game that year, stood with them on the sideline during every anthem. Johnson was praised for the manner in which he galvanized the team.
But that was then. Now the climate has changed.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has pledged his support to the players and the Black Lives Matter movement. Jets safety Jamal Adams, who marched in a protest in his hometown of Dallas last week and appeared in the now-celebrated player video that prompted Goodell's response, has been one of the league's most outspoken players.
You also have to wonder if the expected return of Jets owner Woody Johnson, Christopher's older brother, will change the dynamic. Woody Johnson, who works for Trump in his role as ambassador to the United Kingdom, said in September 2016 that he is not in favor of players kneeling during the anthem. This was shortly after then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee for the first time to shine a light on the country’s treatment of racial minorities.
"It wouldn't be my first choice," Woody Johnson said at the time, adding that he'd want to speak to the player to find out his motivation.
Woody Johnson's three-year term as ambassador ends in August, although there's always a chance he will remain in the post through the November election.
"Hopefully," Mosley said, "all owners are doing the same thing [as Christopher Johnson is now], reaching out to their players and trying to figure out as a team how to come together and show the world that just not the NFL, but each individual team, can do something about it and help the community they're in."