FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - In the wake of the ugly riots in Charlottesville, Va., there's a possibility that more NFL players will decline to stand for the national anthem during preseason games this weekend, joining a protest started by Colin Kaepernick last year. So far there's no indication any Jets players will join them.
But if they do, their coach will have their back.
"We don't have a rule book on what's right to protest and not protest," Bowles said at Jets training camp on Wednesday. "You don't know those things until the course of time, whether it's sitting for the anthem, whether it's raising your fist, wither it's speaking out, a walk to Washington -- who's to say whose protest is good or bad?"
For what it's worth, Jets defensive end Leonard Williams said the idea of a protest hasn't even been discussed among Jets players, but Bowles knows they are aware of what's happening in the world. He said "We talk about current events all the time" and his teaching of his players involves "more than football".
He said he hasn't spoken with them specifically about what happened in Charlottesville on Sunday, when a group of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and members of the Klu Klux Klan came to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and ended up in a violent clash with counter protesters. One of the white supremacists even drove a car into a crowd, killing one and injuring many others.
Even before that horrific event, though, several players had joined the protest that Kaepernick started last season when he sat and later kneeled for the national anthem in protest of the way African Americans are treated in this country, particularly by law enforcement. Over the weekend, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat, while Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins raised his fist.
Many believe more protests are coming this weekend, possibly in the Jets game at Detroit on Saturday night. And if one of his players chooses to make a political statement, Bowles isn't going to tell his players what to do or not to do.
"People are human, they're part of it, so you can't say what's good or bad," he said. "I'm against racism, segregation, and all that other stuff. But how do we come to an answer? I don't have that answer. How do we come to a common ground? I don't have that answer.
"It's a hell of a debate. It's a hell of a topic. It needs to stop. I don't have the answers to that. But who's to say whose protest is good or bad. If that's just the way they feel, they have the right to express that."