national anthem

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

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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.

Wayne Simmonds to national anthem critics: 'Stop focusing on kneeling,' focus on 'bigger issues'

Wayne Simmonds to national anthem critics: 'Stop focusing on kneeling,' focus on 'bigger issues'

VOORHEES, N.J. —​ Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds spent a good portion of his Wednesday night watching the nonstop CNN coverage regarding race relations in the United States and how the politicization has worked its way into the arena of sports centered around kneeling during the national anthem.

“All anyone wants to talk about right now is why they’re kneeling,” Simmonds said. “And if you’re disrespecting the Army or the national anthem or whatever it might be. People fail to see what the real issue is, or why Colin Kaepernick actually started this protest, and that he actually talked with an armed force member who was actually on CNN last night discussing all of these issues on a panel as to why he used the national anthem as a vehicle to get this out.”

Born and raised in Scarborough, Ontario, a suburb outside Toronto, Simmonds has spent the past decade living and playing professionally in the United States and has witnessed firsthand the problems that confront the United States of America. 

“The bigger issues are the social inequalities in life,” Simmonds continued. “The things that happen to the black youth — all the shootings and everything that’s gone on in this country for numerous amounts of years.

"Being Canadian, it’s happened to me in Canada, as well. I think it spans outside the U.S., but the issue right now is within the U.S. Obviously we’re trying to find answers, we’re trying to get a conversation sparked. We’re trying to bring everyone together so it’s more united, and not everyone loves you and everyone hates you. At this point, it’s either black and white, but it shouldn’t be black or white. There’s a lot of issues in this country that people aren’t taking into consideration.”

Simmonds has been a victim of racism and the injustices that can take place. During a Flyers' preseason game in London, Ontario in September 2011, a fan tossed a banana his way just prior to his shootout attempt

“It’s an American issue right now," he said. "We’re talking about America. We’re talking about the United States of America. We’re not talking about Canada. I’m a black male living in the United States and for the majority of my time, majority of the last 10 years I’ve lived here, I definitely understand what everyone is protesting about it and I definitely support the cause.”  

Currently, Simmonds is one of 27 black players on an NHL roster. He was asked about the possibility of kneeling or making a political statement after his good friend Joel Ward — who wears No. 42 with the San Jose Sharks to honor Jackie Robinson — said he had considered taking a knee during the national anthem.

Ward announced in a tweet Thursday, that he will not kneel during the anthem "to re-focus" the attention to the real issues, rather than the debate over the act of kneeling.

Simmonds became irritated when the idea of kneeling is brought into question.

“It’s not about the kneeling, but everyone’s going to continue to make it about the kneeling,” Simmonds said, “If you guys want to talk about kneeling, I’m not here to talk about the kneeling. I’m here to talk about the bigger issues. If you want to talk about the bigger issues, don’t ask me about kneeling.

“There’s social inequalities everywhere, but the United States is dealing with that right now. The stance that’s being taken is that it’s not right and something should be done about it. Instead of trying to find something to do about it, everyone’s talking about kneeling. I think that’s sad. I think that everyone should realize what the real issue is and stop focusing on kneeling, and actually talk about the hard questions instead of figuring out who’s going to kneel and who’s not going to kneel.” 

Thursday morning, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, addressed whether he would allow one of his players to make a political statement during the playing of the national anthem.

“I think that’s a bigger conversation," Hakstol said. "I have the utmost respect for Simmer, and certainly for how strong he is within his convictions. I’m going to have that conversation and keep having those conversations with Simmer in private.”

Wednesday, the NHLPA released a statement supporting a player's right to protest, but it didn't specifically cite the national anthem:

“We believe each player may choose to speak out or engage in peaceful protest on matters that are important to him. A player is entitled to his own views on political and social issues, and the right of each player to express such views deserves respect. Should a player decide to make such a peaceful protest, he would of course have the full support of the NHLPA in regard to his right to do so.”

However, the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman have taken a different position. Bettman has attempted to keep politics away from NHL rinks, and during a panel discussion with league commissioners at the Milken Institute panel this past May, Bettman had this to say about anthem protests:

“Respecting the national anthem, I think it’s great for our players to be involved in political and social causes. But I also think that’s not why people come to games to see games. So, I would encourage, and I do encourage our players to do it on their own time. When they’re showing up for work to participate in a game that people are focused on, care about, pay a lot of money to attend, then it should be all about the game. That block of time should be apolitical, and we can use our platforms to demonstrate diversity, inclusiveness, educating communities on good causes whether or not it’s health or the environment. But when the game is being played, it should be about the game because that’s what fans want.”

Jake Elliott's photo after unforgettable finish a major breath of fresh air

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Jake Elliott's photo after unforgettable finish a major breath of fresh air

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

The saying is attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, but there is some debate who coined the phrase. We’ll let historians debate the origin. Fast-forward some 90-odd years later to a hot Sunday afternoon in South Philadelphia and the visual of Jake Elliott triumphantly being carried off the field on the shoulders of Mychal Kendricks and Kamu Grugier-Hill.

It was a fitting close to a crazy game. Elliott had just buried the longest field goal in franchise history. The sixth-longest ever in the NFL. Sixty-one yards of pure bliss for Eagles fans. All courtesy of a player who was not even on the team two weeks ago. A guy most had never heard of prior to that, including his now teammates, being given the ultimate escort. A kicker nonetheless. The still photo now serves a screen saver or backdrop for countless Eagles fans. A reminder of yet another wild finish between these two old rivals. But the image also represents something much deeper.

Sunday was dominated by images of the sidelines during the national anthem, as players responded to the President Trump's comments. The Eagles, along with their owner, Jeffrey Lurie, stood arms locked along with Philadelphia police during the national anthem. Others around the league sat or kneeled. Some teams never came out of the locker room. Some went the traditional route of standing with their hand over their heart to honor our flag. But unlike Colin Kaepernick’s protests last year or Malcolm Jenkins' clenched fist, this was a much broader protest being made by NFL players.

That this a complex, polarizing issue, no one will argue. The overriding message or theme from the players who took part in the demonstrations was it was done in response to the president’s cry Friday that NFL owners who see players “disrespecting the flag” should say “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.” The protests were also done to raise awareness of the racial inequalities in our country. There are those who find any action other than standing at attention for the anthem to be disrespectful to our country regardless of the reasoning behind it.

Sports has long been the cocoon that allows fans to escape "real world" problems. Attend or turn on a game and you could get a two-three hour respite from work or politics or family issues. Those days are gone. The two worlds have collided, and, like it or not, there is no untangling the two forces.

But there was something about the shot of Elliott, a white man being carried off the field by two African-American men. It was unbridled joy by three human beings from differing backgrounds. But the only color you see is green. No division, race, class or politics. And that's what's still beautiful about sports. Pollyanna perhaps. Individuals of all races and ethnicities and backgrounds working together for a greater good.

Kind of the way it’s supposed to be in that "real world." Picture that.