Jerry Jones’ threat to bench anyone who disrespects the national anthem by taking a knee or raising a fist has caused a stir in the Dallas Cowboys locker room.
Players met before practice Wednesday to discuss the issue and air their frustrations regarding owner Jones’ comments, sources said.
And then Jones met with the team after practice. Jones reiterated during the meeting that he was taking pressure off them and putting it all on himself, the sources said, and that the focus on standing was in the best interest of the Cowboys and NFL from a business perspective.
The initial discussion happened during a team meeting for normal game review but the subject was brought up by the players, the sources said.
Cowboys players have largely stood idly by during the national anthem as protests have swept the NFL since the start of last season.
None has followed the lead former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started taking a knee during the anthem last season in a silent protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
Defensive ends Damontre Moore and David Irving did raise their fists after the anthem before Sunday’s 35-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Jones’ mandate has put the players in an awkward position, especially because it makes it seem like he is siding with President Donald Trump, who called the protesters “sons of b------” a few weeks ago and said the owners should fire them.
One player said he has been called a sellout on social media for not fighting back.
Coach Jason Garrett did not speak to the media on Wednesday.
And most of the players declined to comment on what was said during the meeting among themselves or with Jones — at least the ones who did talk.
Quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott normally talk on Wednesday but both declined interviews.
Tight end Jason Witten was nowhere to be found and receiver Dez Bryant declined to be interviewed.
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick remarked with “no comment” to seven questions about Jones and the meetings.
But his opinion was heard loud and clear before and after the interview session.
He blared the hip hop song “FDT” by YG and Nipsey Hussle at his locker as the media walked in. The song’s hook is a curse word followed by Donald Trump.
After his interview, Scandrick pointed to his pink cleats he’s wearing for breast cancer awareness and said this was “a cause” the players are allowed to support.
Kicker Dan Bailey, the special teams captain and the team’s NFL Players Association representative, begrudgingly spoke because no one else did.
But he offered little information about the meeting. He said the players are trying to find some middle ground with Jones and get back to focusing on football.
“I think you are going to always have people with different opinions and different beliefs,” Bailey said. “The main focus is to establish some sort of baseline where you can come together and agree on something in principle. It doesn’t mean that your individual views are right or wrong. When you come in this door we are working on something as a team and that’s the main focus.”
That’s certainly Irving’s attitude after escaping punishment for raising his fist on Sunday.
He also declined to comment when asked detailed questions about the meeting, aside for acknowledging that Jones did speak to the team and the meeting raised more questions as well as providing some answers.
He said he didn’t know if he would raise his fist again. But he said the team was still united and it plans to focus on football going forward.
“Yeah, let’s just focus on football, you know, just put our focus toward football,” Irving said. “There’s nothing much more to talk about the issue, we’re just going to focus on football.”