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Malcolm Jenkins calls Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ‘a bully’ over team’s hard-line anthem policy

Philadelphia’s Malcolm Jenkins (27) and Rodney McLeod (23) demonstrate during the national anthem before a game in October. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Eagles safety and NFL Players Coalition leader Malcolm Jenkins had a harsh response for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who Wednesday said he would require Dallas players to stand for the national anthem even as the league and players’ union negotiate a new policy.

Jenkins called Jones “a bully” and said he hoped Cowboys players would demonstrate anyway. He called on other franchise owners, including Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Lurie, to back players’ rights of political expression during the anthem.

“Jeffrey has been very supportive of us from the beginning. I don’t see Jeffrey as a bully like Jerry Jones is,” Jenkins told reporters Friday (via ESPN). “Lucky for me, I don’t play for the Cowboys. Nor would I want to. I think it’s unfortunate that you have owners like him that use his position to intimidate and intentionally thwart even the idea of his players thinking individually or having a voice about issues that affect their communities daily. … Hopefully you’ll have guys challenge that, and they’ll have my full support.”

President Trump inserted himself into the issue again Friday when he applauded Jones’s hard-line stance on the anthem.

As Cowboys players reported to training camp in Oxnard, Calif., days earlier, Jones admitted he hoped the controversy and the president’s involvement “would go away.”

“[Trump’s] interest in what we’re doing is problematic, from my chair, and I would say in general the owners’ chair,” Jones said Wednesday. “It’s unprecedented, if you really think about it. But like the very game itself, that’s the way it is, and we’ll deal with it. We feel strongly about how we deal with it and we’ll do so accordingly but, yes, I, like everybody, would like for it to go away.”

Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott told reporters Friday that he would adhere to Jones’s policy.

“I never protest,” he said. “I never protest during the anthem, and I don’t think that’s the time or the venue to do so.”

Players knelt or raised a fist during the anthem last season, doing so to raise awareness of police brutality, economic inequality and social injustice. The NFL announced in May that it would require players to stand for the anthem or remain in the locker room while it played. That was met with resistance from players, and the league and players’ union agreed to continue negotiations on a revised policy last week.

Still, Jones this week made up his mind for Cowboys players, mandating they stand “toe on the line,” which elicited Jenkins’s fiery response.

“While you have the NFL office trying to meet with the NFLPA,” Jenkins said, “simultaneously you have Jerry Jones speaking about how not only is he going to ignore the policy of allowing players to go in [to the locker room during the anthem], that everybody has to come out. There’s always this kind of, speaking out of both ends from the league, [like] ‘We support our players,’ but then you put in a policy to take away their voices. Hopefully you’ll have the majority of owners speak out on whatever side of this that they actually stand.”

Also Friday, the league issued an NFL/NFLPA joint statement about working toward a new policy.

Jenkins said every owner has a responsibility to speak up about the league’s anthem policy and how their teams will handle demonstrations.

“I think every owner has a voice and will have to decide what they want to do,” he said. “I think silence is compliant. And if you don’t speak on it, you allow it. When you have owners like Jerry Jones who speak so strongly and who has drawn his line in the sand and has been very vocal about it, and you’ve had other owners be very quiet, Jerry Jones is now the voice of NFL ownership. So unless you have some other owners come out with some definitive statements and support, they’re going to allow Jerry Jones to push the narrative of not only NFL owners but the NFL as a whole.”

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