Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones’ hard line stance on the national anthem and his threat to bench any member of his team who disrespects the flag has put him at the center of the issue.
Jones, however, doesn’t worry about the critics who say he’s treating his players “like a plantation owner”, which one protester did to his face at the NFL meetings in New York last week.
“They don't know me,” Jones said following Sunday’s 40-10 victory against San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. “And I didn't know them. I am well aware they don't know me. To the extent that they were frustrated with me, they are wrong. Just wrong.”
Jones says critics are wrong with their character assessments and motive assumptions about his anthem stance.
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For him it’s all about business.
He said the league is being damaged by the protests that started with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season. He said the league being damaged image- wise and financially with lower television ratings.
“There is no question the league is suffering negative effects from these protests,” Jones said.
Jones was more expansive than he’s ever been regarding an acknowledgment of the concerns of the players, who are protesting racism and social injustice. He said the league can’t help in those areas in a meaningful way if it is damaged.
He said his number one goal is making and keeping the NFL product strong.
“I care about a lot of things,” Jones said. “But our ability to be substantive is based on having a strong NFL, a league that people are really interested in and want to watch games. At all times, if I am anything, I am first and foremost a proponent of making the NFL strong. Making us have as many people watching the game as we can and watching in light of what we are doing and that's playing football.
“If all this makes you stronger to represent messages, let’s don't do it in a way that tears down the strength of the NFL.”
Jones said the players he talked to all know the NFL is being damaged. He said the Cowboys sponsors have expressed “concerns” about the anthem protests and damage to the league.
“All times, I want to do the right thing by them and their customers,” Jones said. “I have a great responsibility to the people who support us. We all get great benefits from having a lot of people watch our games. All of us do.”
Jones spoke Sunday for first time since the NFL meetings last week when the league discussed the anthem issue with the players for the first time.
Jones did not express disappointment that the league refused to pass a new rule mandating all players stand for the anthem. His position with his team is clear, but he characterized the meetings as productive and expressed an interest in helping the players out in solving issues that are important to every one.
“Our position was represented there,” Jones said. “We had a good meeting as to what we could do generally as a game, as a league to basically help point out some of the issues that aren't just the players that are all our issues. And do it in such a way that doesn't hurt the NFL.
“So I thought we had a good discussion about that. There will be ongoing discussions about how to address the real issues. Some of the issues that have happened around the flag have taken the message away from what we all want to see done better.”