Wheeler supports Chicago Bears' stance on national anthem policy
An Illinois state representative has said he supports the Chicago Bears' policy to require players to stand for the national anthem if they choose to come out of the locker room for it.
Rep. Keith R. Wheeler (R-Oswego) said he supported this position before President Donald Trump even mentioned anything about the lack of a policy with the National Football League (NFL).
"This policy strikes a better balance," Wheeler told the Kane County Reporter. "If players don’t want to stand, they have a choice now. The players who don’t want to stand can remain in the locker room and aren’t required to stand."
Wheeler said the players can then make political statements before or after the game, just not during it.
Wheeler mentioned the recent letter written to team owner Virginia Halas McCaskey and Chairman George McCaskey by U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and three other colleagues that conveyed that the team was voting "to silence the players you employ during this important national dialogue."
Wheeler said he agrees with the statement that the only way the nation can move away from this issue is by "engaging in a constructive, respectful, representative discourse that helps communities heal by acknowledging injustices and listening to one another’s voice.”
"I agree with that statement," Wheeler said. "However, a respectful discourse wouldn’t naturally take place during a football game and shouldn’t include disrespecting others’ moments of tribute to the flag and country that were fought for, as well as for those who gave their lives to give us the freedom to have this discourse."
Wheeler said he doesn't see the new rule as limiting anyone's free speech.
"When people are in their workplace, it is expected that they adhere to work rules and guidelines regarding all sorts of issues, including political discussions," Wheeler said. "I haven’t yet seen where the NFL or club owners have prevented players from expressing their personal views outside of work hours."
Wheeler said the players who want to advocate for social change can do so outside of work hours, and they can do so in a positive way.
"The NFL should rise above symbolic gestures and take inclusive action that can actually change lives," Wheeler said. "In a letter that I sent to [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell just before Super Bowl LII, [I was] critical of the NFL’s decision to reject an ad placed by AMVETS. I referenced an $89 million initiative by the NFL to fund community activism efforts."
Wheeler said he thinks the NFL should increase that investment and invite players to work with officials at every level to drive solutions that will actually make a difference in disaffected communities.
"Let’s work toward real solutions that solve real problems rather than arguing about how we talk about them," Wheeler said.