No Cowboys players kneeled during the National Anthem before Sunday night’s 31-35 loss to the Green Bay Packers. But that didn’t stop Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones from confirming what many have long suspected: he has informed his players that taking a knee during the anthem would lead to them being benched immediately, the New York Post reported.
“If there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play,” Jones told reporters after the game.
“Understand? We will not,” he said. “If we are 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. And we have.”
Jones then defended Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to walk out of Sunday’s 49ers-Colts game after more than 20 players took a knee during the National Anthem. President Donald Trump later tweeted that he had asked Pence to walk out.
“We cannot in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” Jones said. “I know the vice president did leave, because in his opinion the teams were. 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. Just so we’re clear.”
The longtime NFL owner and general manager continued, “I’m saying our vice president, if in his opinion, there’s disrespect of the flag then he should express himself however he wants to say. He’s got rights, too. He felt that not standing for the flag is disrespectful. I do, too. The league in my 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.”
As the NYP pointed out, while hundreds of NFL players have taken a knee during the national anthem in recent weeks, no Cowboys had taken part. Defensive lineman David Irving and Damontre Moore did raise fists on Sunday toward the end of the anthem as a gesture of solidarity, but they remained standing.
Jones told the Dallas Morning News that he was unaware of their actions.
“We as a team are very much on the page together,” he said. “We made our expression. I’m very supportive of the team, but under no circumstances will the Dallas Cowboys — I don’t care what happens — under no circumstances will we as an organization, coaches, players, not support and stand and recognize and honor the flag. Period.”
Just days after Trump referred to any player who would kneel during the anthem as a “son of a bitch” during a campaign rally in Alabama, Jones joined his team in taking a knee after the anthem had finished playing as a gesture of solidarity.
Meanwhile, for Jones and the other NFL franchise owners, it’s unclear whether denunciations like these will be enough to soothe angry fans and reverse the dip in game ratings and attendance witnessed since former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick sat for the anthem for the first time during a pre-season game last year. As one survey recently uncovered, the contentious protests have contributed to making the NFL the most unpopular professional sports league in America.