Jones Says Cowboys' Stance On Protesting During Anthem Was In Place Last Season
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones yesterday clarified what he considers "disrespectful and unacceptable" behavior during the national anthem and said players "need consequences" to stand up to peer pressure, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com. He added that it is "in the best interests" of the Cowboys, NFL and players to honor the flag. Jones indicated that "not standing at attention during the anthem" would constitute a penalty in his mind. He said that the policy "applies to all players, no exceptions, even if the player is a star such as WR Dez Bryant or QB Dak Prescott." He said that any player who "communicated his unwillingness to adhere to the policy would be made inactive for the game, and if a player took action during the anthem, he simply would not play." Jones said that the team policy that "prohibits players from playing if they 'disrespect' the flag is not new and has been in effect since last season." Mortensen noted Jones also "addressed the impression that the league's operations manual doesn't properly address the issue." Jones said, "The game ops manual has an ambiguity being used for those who don't want to enforce it -- the word 'should' stand for anthem is their ambiguity, but how can it be ambiguous when it cites the potential penalties of fines, suspension or loss of draft picks for failing to adhere?" Two Cowboys players, DE Damontre Moore and DT David Irving, "raised their fists at the end of the national anthem before Sunday's game." Cowboys coach Jason Garrett yesterday said that the players would "not be disciplined" (ESPN.com, 10/10).
MORE FROM JONES: Jones claims many Cowboys fans see players kneeling during the anthem as "disrespect for the flag." Jones: "So I don't want our team doing it." USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes the "optics when combined with his words ... are a turnoff to another segment of the fan base that Jones is seemingly willing to risk losing." Jones said, "I’m not in the business of 51-49. That’s not what we’re about. I’m removing the politics. I’m removing everything from this." He added, "As the leader of the Cowboys -- because of the political aspect of yesterday -- I wanted for all of us to draw a very bright line, so that we all could understand the consequences. That’s what that was all about." More Jones: "Yesterday was simply my role for this franchise and, frankly -- as one of 32 owners in the league -- to say I feel so strongly that we should not use our workplace to create the controversy regarding the flag. So I look at that as a workplace issue" (USA TODAY, 10/10).
GOES AGAINST LEAGUE'S STATED PLAN: The AP's Schuyler Dixon noted Jones' comments "were the most provocative comments so far" from him, a "powerful behind-the-scenes force in the NFL." NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith yesterday said that Jones "contradicted assurances last week" from Commissioner Roger Goodell and Giants President John Mara that players could "express themselves without reprisals." Dixon noted Jones "isn't the only owner who feels strongly about players standing for the anthem, but there have been no indications of teams requiring their players to stand." Mara has told Giants players that he "wants them to stand but supports their right to do otherwise" (AP, 10/9). ESPN’s Adam Schefter said the NFL cannot be "particularly pleased" about Jones' edict. Goodell and the league office "has been clear in saying, ‘We support the players' right to speak up, to take a stand, to say what they want and express their point of view.’ Jerry Jones is giving an entirely different message, so there are two different messages" ("OTL," ESPN, 10/9). ESPN's Randy Moss said of Jones, "He's a man who's loved in the NFL. For him to say something like that -- an owner -- it's doing nothing but dividing us even more." ESPN's Charles Woodson noted Jones has been "great for the advancement of the NFL," which makes it "very disappointing that he would come out with this particular stance” ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 10/9).
Many have wondered what Jones would do if
Prescott or Elliott protested
BUSINESS MOTIVES IN PLAY: USA TODAY's Josh Peter writes Jones is a "great businessman who is simply making a business decision." He has determined that Cowboys fans "view players who kneel or raise fists during the anthem not as an acceptable way to protest social injustice, but as an affront to the American flag." Peter: "That sentiment could cost the Cowboys more than goodwill. It could cost them revenue if fans turn their back on the team, and Jones' stand-for-the-anthem policy heads off the financial risk" (USATODAY.com, 10/10). The N.Y. Daily News’ Frank Isola said Jones has "heard back from fans and from sponsors that they don’t like” the player protests ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/9). ESPN's Louis Riddick: "In the back of everyone's mind is, 'What is my bottom line and how is it being affected? How many letters am I getting from suite holders and my premium seat holders and how manyof those people are saying they will not renew my suites and not come to my games and buy my merchandise?' That's how they're being affected. It's a business, period" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/9). NBC Sports Bay Area's Ray Ratto said Jones is "pandering to his fan base" while also serving as a "harbinger of what the NFL is doing now." He said, "They have decided they can't be all things to all people, so they have made their choice to side with the fans who get angry at protesters. It's a tactical thing" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 10/9).
DOUBLE STANDARD GOING ON? In Dallas, Kevin Sherrington writes Jones gave an "unequivocal warning to his players, telling them in no uncertain terms they'll sit if they kneel." Sherrington: "Funny thing is, as far as we know, not one Cowboy had so much as hinted at joining the protest. Didn't matter to Jerry. He's sending a star-spangled message." Meanwhile, Sherrington wondered about the perception Jones will "take chances on players with more baggage than a DFW carousel, including allegations of domestic violence." Jones not only drafted or signed Elliott, DE Greg Hardy and CB Jourdan Lewis "despite accusations of some type of abuse, he defended them." He said that the organization had "done its due diligence." Sherrington: "Not once have I heard Jerry warn his players so emphatically that they won't play if they disrespect women." He is "fairly animated on this protest, and we can only speculate as to why." Is it "simply his own brand of patriotism?" Or does Jones think it "plays to sponsors and season-ticket holders?" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/10). NBC Sports Bay Area's Kelli Johnson said of Jones, "You are the Cowboys owner who brought in Greg Hardy, who is guilty of domestic assault and threw a woman on a bed of semiautomatic rifles and has a horrible checkered past. You give him a second chance but your players can't peacefully protest?” (“The Happy Hour,” NBC Sports Bay Area, 10/9).
MONUMENTAL SUNDAY: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote Sunday was, in many respects, one of the "most monumental days in the history of the anthem controversy." It "marked the renewal of the effort by politicians to make the issue their own." It also "became the day on which the owners pushed back." There was a "reasoned, pragmatic approach" from Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross, who has "essentially surrendered to the notion that kneeling constitutes disrespect regardless of whether it actually doesn’t." And there was the "aggressive, matter-of-fact, my-way-or-the-highway attitude" from Jones, who "seems to have grown weary of tiptoeing around what he wants." Despite the variance between the two, the owners "abandoned months of paralysis and decided to remind everyone that the bosses are the bosses and the workers are the workers" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Adelson notes Jones and Ross showed the "real goal is to make the problem go away." Adelson: "Create the appearance of solidarity, then turn your back." Think about the "pains taken by NFL teams lately to make sure they seem patriotic." But what "lengths has the league gone to address the issues of black athletes and their families?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/9).