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Despite Players Coalition deal with NFL, Russell Okung will continue to protest

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung said that despite an agreement in principle between the NFL and the Players Coalition to address criminal justice reform, he will continue to protest during the national anthem on game days.

Okung has stood with the rest of his teammates during the national anthem and raised his right fist in silent protest for social injustice.

“I will continue to demonstrate in my own way,” Okung said.

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas and Okung announced that they were breaking away from the Players Coalition started by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin.

Earlier this week, the Players Coalition and the NFL agreed in principle for the league to contribute $89 million over seven years to projects focused on criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education, according to a report by ESPN’s Jim Trotter and Jason Reid.

“It’s not necessarily something you can throw dollars at to make go away, right?” Okung said. “I don’t think it’s something that you can even decide to say, ‘Well, we just won’t even give players time to demonstrate or protest,’ because it still doesn’t go away.

“We are in a sport where we have people of color, men of color that have prominent roles in this league as players. And I think now is a pivotal time to be able to leverage that correctly.”

Okung said via twitter that he believed the decision-making process spearheaded by the Players Coalition has not represented the will of many players.

“The NFL continues a disingenuous approach to player grievances, refusing to match the urgency of this moment,” Okung said in his statement. “Their proposal is woefully inadequate. The NFL seems satisfied with an illusion of player agreement when, in reality, we are far from establishing a meaningful resolution.

“Don’t believe the hype. I encourage players to continue to exercise their constitutional rights.”

Okung said that part of the issue has been the lack of involvement of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, the first player to protest against police brutality and racial inequality during the national anthem over a year ago.

“I think you’ve got to keep in mind who started this thing, and who sort of put himself on the line,” Okung said. “There’s definitely some respect there. I believe this is the same league who’s effectively blackballed him. So when you’re dealing with this group of people or entity as a league, what you’ve got to keep in mind is this reparation, or just $89 million?

“Reparation extends beyond dollars and cents, and real change in policy and lobbying. And I think that should be more at the forefront of what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

As for the Players Coalition, Okung said he holds no ill will toward Jenkins and Boldin.

“Honestly, those guys are good men,” Okung said. “Malcom’s a really good friend, and I think we can respectfully disagree.”