Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on Sunday that: “If there is anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play,” becoming the first NFL team owner to appear to publicly warn players against protesting before games.
Jerry Jones: "If there is anything disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period. We're going to respect the flag and I'm going to create the perception of it."— Brandon George (@DMN_George) October 9, 2017
Jerry Jones: "We cannot in anyway give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag. We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind, that the [NFL] and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag— Brandon George (@DMN_George) October 9, 2017
Jones did not define what exactly “respect the flag” means to him, but did insist that his team would “stand for the flag,” a phrase he has seemed to use in response to players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem. Before the season, Jones said that he felt players should stand during the anthem.
“I just feel so strongly that the act of recognizing the flag is a salute to our country and all of the people that have sacrificed so that we can have the liberties we have,” Jones said in August after protesting during the national anthem returned to prominence in the preseason as quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained unsigned (which he is still). “I feel very strongly that everyone should save that moment for the recognition of the flag in a positive way, so I like the way the Cowboys do it."
Jones reiterated his stance on the flag after President Donald Trump’s comments at a Senate campaign event on September 22, which launched one of the largest political demonstrations in American sports history two days later. Ahead of their Week 3 matchup with the Cardinals on Monday Night Football, the Cowboys locked arms and knelt before the anthem but stood during the song. Jones and his children joined the players in locking arms.
The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones locked arms and took a knee in unity prior to the national anthem pic.twitter.com/7kK3qVMDSo— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 26, 2017
Trump called Jones four times before that Week 3 game, according to Ian Rapoport, asking Jones to have the Cowboys stand for the national anthem.
No Cowboys players have knelt or sat in protest during the national anthem this season, though Damontre Moore and David Irving have raised their fists.
Cowboys DL Damontre Moore and David Irving acknowledged raising their fists at the end of the national anthem before the game. Moore said he's done it all year. Moore said it wasn't disrespecting the flag and he has a lot of family members with military background.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) October 9, 2017
This Sunday marked another high-profile day for political protests around the league. Earlier in the day, Vice President Mike Pence left the Colts game following the 49ers protests, tweeting, “I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.” Shortly after Pence’s exit, Trump tweeted that he’d asked Pence to leave if a protest occurred.
The Cowboys are on a bye next week, then travel to San Francisco the following week to take on the 49ers. Kaepernick played for the 49ers when he first knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality in 2016.