Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after his team’s loss Sunday to the Green Bay Packers that he expects his players to stand for the anthem without expressions of protest.
“If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period. Period,” Jones told reporters (via the Dallas Morning News). “We’re going to respect the flag.”
“We cannot in the NFL, in any way, give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” he added. “We cannot do that.”
Jones said he did not see two Cowboys players, Damontre Moore and David Irving, raise their fists as the anthem concluded Sunday. When apprised of that, he said that while “we as a team are very much on the page together,” players and coaches will “under no circumstances” fail to “stand and recognize and honor the flag.”
The owner made reference to Vice President Pence saying he left the 49ers-Colts game earlier Sunday in Indianapolis because of protests by players during the anthem.
“I’m saying our vice president of the United States, if in his opinion there’s disrespect of the flag, then he should … express himself however he wants to,” Jones said. “He’s got rights, too. So however he wants to do it — he felt that not standing for the flag is disrespectful. I do, too.”
The NFL Players Association released a statement Sunday that its members “are union members and part of the labor movement that has woven the fabric of America for generations,” adding, “Our men and their families are also conscientious Americans who continue to be forces for good through our communities and some have decided to use their platform to peacefully raise awareness to issues that deserve attention.
“It is a source of enormous pride that some of the best conversations about these issues have taken place in our locker rooms in a respectful, civil and thoughtful way that should serve as a model for how all of us can communicate with each other,” the NFLPA continued. “We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects. That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave.”
An NFLPA executive said on Twitter that the union’s statement had “originally intended for the protest” by Pence in Indianapolis, but that it could “serve for many situations.”
Jones mentioned the requirement in the NFL game operations manual that players must be on the sideline for the anthem. The league has said that it will not discipline players for violating that rule.
The NFL’s game operations manual says: “The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
“During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”
Earlier this season, before a Monday night game at Arizona, Jones stood arm in arm with Cowboys players and coaches and took a knee on the field before the anthem. Jones and the rest of the Cowboys stood and returned to their sideline and remained standing for the anthem.
“Our players wanted to make a statement about unity and we wanted to make a statement about equality,” Jones said at a news conference after that game. “They were very much aware that statement, when made or when attempted to be made in and a part of the recognition of our flag, cannot only lead to criticism but also controversy.
“It was real easy for everybody in our organization to see that the message of unity, the message of equality was getting, if you will, pushed aside or diminished by the controversy. We even had the circumstances that it was being made into a controversy.”
On Sunday, Jones said, “The whole deal is political and has been incited by politics. But let me be real, real clear: The thing that the National Football League needs to do and the Dallas Cowboys are going to do is stand for the flag. We’re going to do that.
“We’ve kneeled in support of each other before the national anthem, and we’ve stood for the national anthem. We’ve always done that. And there is no equivocation here. We’ll stand for the flag.”
After the Cowboys’ pregame demonstration in Arizona, President Trump tweeted that he spoke with Jones, calling the owner “a winner who knows how to get things done.” Trump added, “Players will stand for Country!”
Jones was not the only NFL owner taking a different approach Sunday to player protests during the anthem. Earlier in the day, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who in the past has vocally supported his players’ right to protest, said (via the Miami Herald), “I think it’s incumbent upon players today if that’s how the public is looking at it, is to stand and salute the flag.”
“Trump has made [standing for the anthem] about patriotism,” Ross said, on a day when three Miami players stayed in the tunnel rather than stand on the sideline during the anthem. “It’s so important, if that’s what the country is looking at, to look at it differently. … It’s a different dialogue. Whenever you’re dealing with the flag, you’re dealing with something different.”
New York Daily News columnist Shaun King reported Sunday that players from seven teams told him “they have been told they have to stand for the Anthem.” He cited the Washington Redskins as one such team.
Irving and Moore, the Cowboys who raised their fists during the anthem Sunday, said that they had no intention of disrespecting the flag or military members. “I’m standing, hand over my heart. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong,” Irving said (via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram).
“My dad is a master sergeant, he’s a Marine. I know what he thinks. He’s okay with it, as most Marines I speak to are,” Irving continued. “My brothers are in the Marines. They don’t think it’s disrespecting the flag.”
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