jerry jones

NFL players' union unhappy with Jerry Jones' national anthem comments

NFL players' union unhappy with Jerry Jones' national anthem comments

DALLAS — The declaration by the powerful owner of the Dallas Cowboys that he would bench anyone who shows disrespect to the American flag drew a sharp response from the NFL players' union Monday and raised the possibility of another call to action by athletes who have kneeled during the national anthem.

Executive Director DeMaurice Smith of the NFL Players Association said the most provocative comments yet by Jerry Jones on the anthem controversy contradicted assurances last week from Commissioner Roger Goodell and New York Giants President John Mara that players could express themselves without retribution.

"I look forward to the day when everyone in management can unite and truly embrace and articulate what the flag stands for, liberty and justice for all, instead of some of them just talking about standing," Smith said. "We look forward to continuing our talks with them on this very issue."

Jones' comments on Sunday came after he was asked about Vice President Mike Pence's decision to leave an Indianapolis home game in protest of about a dozen San Francisco players who kneeled during the anthem. President Donald Trump tweeted after Pence's walkout that he had told his vice president to leave if any players kneeled during the anthem.

Following a 35-31 loss to Green Bay, the 74-year-old Jones said the NFL cannot leave the impression that it tolerates players disrespecting the flag and said any Cowboys doing so will not play.

"If there's anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play," said Jones, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. "OK? Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won't play. Period."

The Cowboys and Jones kneeled arm-in-arm before the anthem when they played at Arizona two weeks ago, a few days after Trump said at a rally in Alabama that NFL owners should fire any players who disrespect the flag. All of them stood during the anthem, with arms still locked.

Most Dallas players have stood on the sideline, many with hands over their hearts, during the anthem since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling last season in protest of police treatment of African-Americans.

Several NFL teams have struggled with how to handle anthem protests. After Trump's criticism, the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to stay off the field before the anthem. But Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva, an offensive lineman, stood at the edge of a tunnel with his teammates in darkness behind him during the anthem two weeks ago.

Villanueva said he was not making a political statement in defiance of his teammates, calling it a misunderstanding that was "very embarrassing on my end."

Miami coach Adam Gase recently set a new team policy requiring players either to stand or wait in the tunnel. Three chose to stay off the field, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills and Julius Thomas. All three have kneeled in the past.

"We were just trying to keep the team focused and not be a distraction," Michael Thomas said. "It was a team decision. ... The league heard us. They've heard the cry of the players."

Mara has told Giants players he wants them to stand during the anthem but supports their right to do otherwise. Jones had already made it clear that he felt strongly about standing for the anthem before his latest comments, and he isn't the only owner who feels that way.

Jones even suggested that standing for the anthem was more important to him that team unity.

"The main thing I want to do is make it real clear: There is no room here if it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you're disrespecting the flag. We will be non-supportive of each other," Jones said. "We will not disrespect the flag."

Trump's comments stoked a political controversy that had subsided somewhat since Kaepernick started it a year ago. The NFL defended the rights of players to protest.

Lead NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart has said, "Everyone should know, including the president, this is what real locker room talk is." It was an apparent reference to the "Access Hollywood" tapes in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. Trump had chalked up those comments as "locker room talk."

Malcolm Jenkins: I'd hold anthem demonstration even if team's owner forbid it

Malcolm Jenkins: I'd hold anthem demonstration even if team's owner forbid it

The NFL's never-ending national anthem saga continued Sunday when vice president Mike Pence left the Colts game early after being upset by the sight of players protesting during the anthem.

Later on Sunday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones turned heads even more by saying that players who disrespect the flag "will not play."

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, through word and deed, has been making a difference both locally and nationally trying to generate change and improve race relations. He had a strong reaction Monday to Jones' comments, expressing gratitude that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie hasn't taken such a stance.

"Well, my first reaction is that I'm grateful that Jeffrey Lurie not only did not express those kinds of feelings but has proactively been in the community and has reached out to try and hear about the issues that we are actually demonstrating to draw attention to," Jenkins told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Derrick Gunn.

"If [Lurie] were to put out such a statement I'd continue my demonstration because my demonstration is in no way disrespectful to our flag, our country or our service members. Neither is anybody in the league who is kneeling. I think we've made that very clear that what we are demonstrating about has nothing to do with the flag but everything to do with social injustice, racial inequality and the things that, you know, Jerry Jones and other owners who are making statements have yet to address.

"And so I'd love to hear their takes on that part of the conversation, what these players are trying to draw attention to. Their thoughts on, you know, police brutality and racial inequality, education gap, the economical gap in these communities that they make money in. And I'd love to hear that part of the conversation so that it's not so argumentative, so that it's not isolating the players who are trying to do the right thing with the platform that they have."

Jones' comments made clear that he wants his players to "stand up for the flag," not kneel, during the national anthem. Jenkins' demonstration has never included kneeling. Since last season, Jenkins and several Eagles teammates have stood and raised their fists during the anthem.

Still, Jenkins reiterated that even if his team's owner said what Jones said Sunday, he wouldn't change his way of demonstrating.

"I would still do it," Jenkins said. "I mean, I've been that committed to it because that decision is not mine. I made the decision a year ago that I was going to use my platform in a way to create positive change both on the field and off the field and having someone tell me I couldn't do that simply because, you know, a president or your bottom line is getting ready to be affected, that wouldn't deter me."

Jerry Jones says Cowboys who disrespect the flag 'will not play'

usa-jerry-jones-cowboys.jpg
USA Today Images

Jerry Jones says Cowboys who disrespect the flag 'will not play'

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas owner Jerry Jones said the NFL can't leave the impression it tolerates players disrespecting the flag and any Cowboys making such displays won't play.

Jones had his strongest comments so far on the national anthem controversy Sunday night. They started with his response to a question about Vice President Mike Pence leaving the game in Indianapolis after about a dozen San Francisco players knelt during the anthem.

"I know this, we cannot ... in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag," said Jones, also the team's general manager, after a 35-31 loss to Green Bay.

"We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. So we're clear."

The Cowboys and Jones knelt arm-in-arm before the anthem when they played at Arizona two weeks ago, a few days after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players for anthem protests. All of them stood during the anthem, with arms still locked.

Mostly Dallas players have stood on the sideline, many with hands over their hearts, during the anthem since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling last season in protest of police treatment of African-Americans.

Jones said he wasn't aware of whether any of his players had raised a fist at the end of the anthem before the Green Bay game.

"I don't know about that," said Jones, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. "But if there's anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play. OK? Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won't play. Period."

The 74-year-old Jones said showing respect for the flag and the anthem is more important to him than any potential issues of team unity.

"There is no room here if it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you're disrespecting the flag, we will be non-supportive of each other," Jones said. "We will not disrespect the flag."

Jones said a phone conversation with Trump after the display in Arizona included Trump telling him there was a rule on the books.

The NFL has said the game operations manual distributed to teams includes a reference to players standing for the anthem, but that it's a policy and not a rule. The league has said it doesn't plan to punish players over anthem protests.

"The league in mind should absolutely take the rules we've got on the books and make sure that we do not give the perception that we're disrespecting the flag," Jones said.