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Jerry Jones Says “We Will Not Play” If a Cowboys Player Is “Disrespecting the Flag”

The comments are the most publicly hostile remarks from an NFL owner toward recent player protests

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.