Chargers' Okung Issues Call to Action for NFL Players – New York Times

By KEN BELSONOctober 13, 2017

In an unusual and public call to arms, a Los Angeles Chargers lineman said he would post a letter online Friday morning urging the league’s 1,700 players to take a unified stand against pressure from N.F.L. team owners to curb demonstrations during the national anthem before games.

“We can either wait until we receive our respective marching orders, speak up individually, or find a way to collaborate, and exercise our agency as the lifeblood of the league,” the player, Russell Okung, wrote, according to a copy of the letter provided to The Times.

Okung’s nearly 900-word manifesto takes N.F.L. owners to task for making decisions on anthem demonstrations, which have typically involved players kneeling or sitting during the anthem, without broadly consulting players. The owners plan to meet next week to discuss the demonstrations, which were originally intended to draw attention to racial inequality and police shootings of African-Americans.

But that initial message has become blurred, and owners could be prepared to issue restrictions on the protests, especially after drawing condemnation from President Trump and a number of fans in recent weeks.

Trump has said that players who kneel or sit during the national anthem are disrespecting the flag and the military, though many players say it is their patriotic duty to bring attention to social injustice and other ills in society.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Okung said he wrote the letter as a way to move players’ focus away from the president’s agenda and back toward their own goals of addressing inequity.

“I’m about shifting the narrative. We can’t be distracted by what he is trying to do,” Okung said of the president. “We’re honing our voice. We’re not unified against Trump, we’re unified against social injustice.”

In his letter, Okung, an offensive lineman who was named to the Pro Bowl after

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