Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will bench any player in his organization who disrespects the flag during the national anthem.
Jones made his strongest statement regarding the national anthem protests throughout the NFL after Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers. Jones is the first NFL owner to go on record about disciplining players for protesting during the anthem.
“If there is anything disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period,” Jones said. “We’re going to respect the flag and I’m going to create the perception of it.
“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. We will not disrespect the flag.”
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Earlier in the day, vice president Mike Pence left the Indianapolis Colts-San Francisco 49ers game after seeing a handful of 49ers kneel during the anthem.
No Cowboys players have knelt during the anthem, but a couple of defensive linemen made subtle protests Sunday. David Irving and Damontre Moore each held up their fists at the end of the anthem.
Irving and Moore both feel that it is not disrespecting the flag. Both have family members in the military, and those family members are OK with it.
“I don’t feel like it is,” Moore said. “I’ve got a lot of family members that are in the military. … So, for me, I don’t feel like it’s disrespecting it. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. Who is to say I’m right? Who is to say they’re wrong? Who’s to say that they’re right? Who’s to say that I’m wrong?
“At the end of the day, you do whatever you do, but I know I am going to stand up and not disrespect the flag like that. I don’t do anything to cause unwanted attention during that process, so whatever I do afterward I don’t feel like it should matter honestly.”
Added Irving: “I’m standing, hand over my heart. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong. My dad is a master sergeant, he’s a Marine. I know what he thinks. He’s OK with it as most Marines I speak to are. My brothers are in the Marines. They don’t think it’s disrespecting the flag.”
The NFL players association released a statement Sunday night in support of their players’ right to peacefully protest during the national anthem.
It read: “NFL players are union members and part of the labor movement that has woven the fabric of America for generations. Our men and their families are also conscientious Americans who continue to be forces for good through our communities and some have decided to use their platform to peacefully raise awareness to issues that deserve attention.
“It is a source of enormous pride that some of the best conversations about these issues have taken place in our locker rooms in a respectful, civil and thoughtful way that should serve as a model for how all of us can communicate with each other.
“We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects. That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave.”
This has been an ongoing issue since last season when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem in a sign of protest against police brutality against people of color and racial injustice.
President Donald Trump made it a more prominent issue last month when he ripped NFL players for kneeling during the anthem, saying that it’s a reason why TV ratings have dipped.
Trump said any “sons of b------” who kneel during the anthem should be fired.
In a show of unity at the Cowboys-Arizona Cardinals game following those statements, the players and Jones kneeled before the anthem and then were arm-in-arm during the song.
Neither Irving or Moore went in-depth on their reasons for protest.
Asked if he was doing it for the same reasons as Kaepernick, Irving said: “Let’s be honest, it goes way deeper than that. That’s above my pay grade. I don’t want to say too much or get in trouble. I still need to get to my next contract, my next game, I don’t have the money Kaepernick has. I’m not stable yet. We’ll talk about it later in a couple years.”
Asked the same question, Moore responded: “I feel like, honestly, sometimes some things are better left unsaid … at the end of the day, Kap did what he did, I do what I do. Everybody else do what they do from Point A to Point Z in the league.
“I think we might have forgot about that (Kaepernick’s original reasons to protest), but at the end of the day that was a real reason that he started doing it. It wasn’t to get back at somebody or try to spite somebody, it was just bringing awareness. But it is what it is.”
Jones was not aware that Irving and Moore raised their fists near the end of the anthem, but reiterated that disrespecting the flag would not be tolerated by his organization.
“We’re going to respect the flag and I’m going to create the perception of it,” Jones said. “And we have. I’m not aware [of players raising their fists] and wouldn’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not aware of that. If you say so you saw it. We as a team are very much on the page together. We have made our expression that we’re together.”
Jones had no issues with Pence leaving the Colts game early, saying he agrees with the vice president that kneeling for the anthem is disrespectful.
Jones went on to say that in a conversation he had with Trump last month that the President told him there is a league policy requiring players to stand during the anthem. However, there is no such policy requiring players to stand, rather it’s encouraged.
“I’m not saying whether or not I was aware of it or not, but [Trump] did say. He said this could have all been resolved,” Jones said. “Whether I agree with him or not, I also said you know there are several things we don’t agree about. We’re friends, but there are several things we don’t agree about.
“But I want to be real clear — if it comes between the impression of the perception that we’re not standing together supporting each other or the perception that we’re disrespecting the flag, we will not — the perception that we’re not together will be secondary to not respecting the flag. Respecting the flag is first. Or the perception of not respecting the flag.
“We are going to stand for the flag and we’ve done that. We’ve kneeled in support of each other before the national anthem, and we’ve stood for the national anthem. We’ve always done that. There’s no equivocation. We’ll stand for the flag.”