Jerry Jones has thrown down the gauntlet, but Dak Prescott has all of the power. So does Ezekiel Elliott. The same for Dez Bryant.
Since Jones revealed what so many suspected — that he wants his players to stand for the national anthem or risk consequences — the popular theory has been that guys like Dak, Zeke and Dez can kneel knowing there will be nothing.
Jerry was asked about that scenario Tuesday during his weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan.
“I would say that implication that we’re not respecting the flag is not going to be accepted,” he said. “I would ask anybody to look at my record relative to what I say I’m going to do and go from there.”
This is a man who brags that he fired Jimmy Johnson after he won two Super Bowls because the two egos could not agree.
Jerry could win that one. He can’t win on this, and he’s taking the whole team down. He took a side, and it’s not his players’.
However this plays out, we are five games into a season of great promise that is on the precipice of coming apart because, under Jerry, no team has mastered the art of unpredictable mess better than our beloved Cowboys.
The Cowboys of the 1990s proved messy teams can win titles. Messy teams with bad defenses don’t.
Jerry said on his radio show that he is simply maintaining the ethos and conduct policy of the team that existed when he bought the franchise in 1988.
So I asked two former Cowboys players about this.
“That policy has never been told to us,” said former receiver Patrick Crayton, who played for the team from 2004-09. “I remember being in the locker room or the tunnel while the song was being played.”
And there’s this from Cowboys safety Charlie Waters, who played for the Cowboys from 1970-81 under coach Tom Landry, who flew B-17 missions in World War II.
“We always respected the anthem,” Waters told me. “Standing at attention was paramount.”
Whatever the specifics, Jerry is not daring his players to cross him, but rather outlining the rules of his workplace. This, however, it not like “Oreo cookies may not be brought to the break room for afternoon break time.”
This workplace edict has a real consequence: the distraction for a team that does not need another one.
Speaking of distractions, Local 100 of the United Labor Unions filed a charge against Jones and the Dallas Cowboys with the Fort Worth office of the National Labor Relations Board.
I have zero idea how the union is going to possibly win this, but it’s just more noise.
Only the Cowboys could have the NFL’s leading rusher from 2016 embroiled in a legal battle to maintain his eligibility against an NFL-mandated six-game suspension and it not be the biggest story on the team.
Jerry couldn’t placate both sides with his co-signed kneel-down prayer before the playing of the national anthem two weeks ago in Arizona because the subject is just too divisive.
Jerry has a long history of fighting for his players, but siding with President Trump on this issue is not one of them. This puts them in an awkward spot with their boss, whom they like, and potentially with family, friends and teammates. Maybe even their conscience.
It has created stress in a locker room that does not need it.
Jerry may not believe in distractions, but his coaches do. So do players.
The latest is that Dak should take a knee to prove a point, because we all know he has the power. The same for Dez. Or Tyron Smith. Or Sean Lee. Or Zeke.
A lot of people in the black community are going to look to Dak and others to see if they have the courage to cross The Man. And if they don’t do it, they’re going to be painted as a sellout.
It’s all a mosh pit of hurt feelings, anger, resentment, fear, politics and a football team that is 2-3 with a defense that can’t stop people.
A team can win with one or two of those qualities or distractions, but too many of them will take them down.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof