Owner Jerry Jones created a stir last season when he said he’d bench any Dallas Cowboys player who protested during the national anthem.
No Cowboys player had protested during the anthem, but Jones made those comments when the protests during the national anthem continued being a lingering storyline in the NFL.
It peaked when President Donald Trump ripped NFL players who protested by calling them “sons of b------.”
A few days after Trump’s comments, the Cowboys played the Cardinals on Monday Night Football in Arizona.
An upcoming documentary series on Amazon Prime, “All or Nothing,” followed the Cowboys throughout the 2017 season and provided an inside look into the team’s national anthem conversations.
It had audio of Jones meeting with the team before the Cardinals game and discussing the plan of having the entire team take a knee together before the anthem.
“I want to go to the center of the field with everybody right before the national anthem, kneel with you at that time on the basis of unity,” Jones told the team. “I want us, in front of God and everybody, walk out there together all of us and kneel down in the name of unity.
“I love you. I love what we do. Trust me, trust me, because then they’re going to play the national anthem and I do want you to stand with me. I do want you to stand.”
Jones made his controversial statements of benching players who knelt during the national anthem a couple weeks later after the Green Bay game as the protests continued to be a major issue throughout the league.
But the series shows behind-the-scenes discussions of players and coaches.
During one practice, cornerback Orlando Scandrick said: “Why does it have to be classified as any type of protest ‘cause that’s their right to do it. It doesn’t say in the First Amendment you get the right to free speech but you’ve got to tell us why you’re saying it. I’m not going to judge nobody for not kneeling, you know? That’s what makes this country great.”
Coach Jason Garrett addressed the subject with the rest of his staff after the Arizona game.
“We tried to have very honest, thoughtful conversations with our players,” Garrett said. “We got a real sense after the Trump comments that guys were going to take a knee. We were hoping that guys wouldn’t take a knee, so we tried to come up with an alternative plan for them to protest or do whatever they wanted to do without doing it during the national anthem, so that’s how we got to where we were.”
A couple assistants shared their feelings, including a profanity-laced rant by offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
“What happened to blocking out the [expletive] noise?” Pollack said. “Who gives a [expletive] what the President says? Let’s get our focus on what we’re trying to do. All this is doing is distracting us from what we’re trying to [expletive] accomplish. And we’re just prolonging it and making it worse by making a mountain out of a molehill.”
Added wide receivers coach Derek Dooley: “There’s not one person in the NFL that said none of that belongs in the three-hour window. Not one person has come out and said, ‘Those three hours? Let’s play football and then every hour after that use your platform, fight for change, do whatever you want. But those three hours, let’s preserve what football has been, which is the ultimate melting pot where you earn respect for who you are, what kind of teammate you are and how you play.’”
Garrett responded by saying he has always stood on the sidelines with his hand over his heart during the national anthem and that it was a subject he wished he didn’t have to address.
“What do you think I want to do? You think I want to spend one ounce of breath on this? I don’t,” Garrett said. “Nobody is interested in disrespecting the flag, the national anthem, the country, any of that stuff. But if our players are walking around and they’re spending all their time, energy and emotion on this issue, I think it’s best to confront it and somehow, someway get it addressed. There’s no easy solution. I wish there was one.
“That was the only objective of this conversation as we go forward because we do have to come up with a solution that works for everybody.”
The eight-part series will be available to stream in full on Amazon Prime beginning Friday, April 27.