Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey attempted to thread the needle on a delicate subject and walked away sounding like someone trying to find a middle ground.
McCaskey met with the media at Halas Hall on Thursday and shared his first public comments since the NFL issued its new policy regarding the national anthem. Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic shared the entire transcript featuring McCaskey’s opening remarks and the question-and-answer session with the media, which offers up context and insight into what is a delicate issue.
For now, let’s start with some highlights and sprinkle in some context where we can.
First, McCaskey’s vocal backing of the league’s new policy:
George McCaskey, asked about his personal beliefs regarding national anthem issue: "We think players should stand. We encourage our players to stand."
— Larry Mayer (@LarryMayer) June 7, 2018
McCaskey shared his belief that players should stand for the anthem, something he reiterated that he believed back in September. However, McCaskey also said the policy wasn’t perfect and that “there is no easy answer” regarding the issue. McCaskey added clarification regarding whether outside factors played a role into what has transpired, saying that his beliefs and how the team is going about approaching the situation has nothing to do with what Donald Trump “was doing or not doing or saying or not saying.”
However, that’s just part of the story, as McCaskey also shared support for his players’ efforts toward social activism:
George H. McCaskey: "We are proud of our players for their social activism and the effort to make the greatest city in the world better."
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 7, 2018
On the surface, this comes across as down the middle as it could get. McCaskey supports the NFL’s new rule, but also essentially gave an endorsement for player rights and social activism.
The chairman also was clear to point out that protests during the anthem weren’t shows against the flag or military, correctly noting that players who were the first to kneel during the anthem did so in an attempt to shine a light on what McCaskey called “legitimate issues” – police misconduct and social inequality. McCaskey also called the false perception of disrespect “unfortunate.” Honestly, that specific sentiment feels like that’s a bit light.
In the end, McCaskey uses a lot of words to take a middle ground – albeit a muddy one.