In May, NFL owners unilaterally passed a policy that they hoped would end an enduring narrative of protests during the national anthem. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has been one of the most vocally opposed to players kneeling or otherwise protesting, helped lead the effort.
Two months later, that policy is on hold amid public backlash and a grievance filed by the NFLPA. Owners were recently “instructed to stand down” while the NFL and NFLPA discuss a plan moving forward about protests, according to Bengals owner Mike Brown. But Jones couldn’t help himself.
On Wednesday, he spoke to reporters and dumped fuel on the fire:
Jerry Jones says he wouldn't support a player who elected to stay in the locker room during the anthem. "No, our policy is you stand for the anthem, toe on the line." #CowboysCamp— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) July 25, 2018
This really isn’t that surprising. In October 2017, Jones told the media that any players who “disrespect the flag” won’t play for the Cowboys. A few days later, he held a meeting with the team that didn’t seem to go over well with players.
So Jones’ policy that Cowboys players must exit the locker room for the national anthem and “stand for the anthem, toe on the line” isn’t anything new.
It does, however, directly oppose the “compromise” he and the other NFL owners constructed in May when a new national anthem policy was passed. That policy said that players could stay in the locker room to protest, but must stand and “show proper respect for the flag and anthem” if they’re on the field during the national anthem.
By sticking to his solution of trying to end protests by force, Jones is continuing to drive a wedge between players and ownership. He’s also making it clear that — while the NFL and NFLPA are discussing how to move forward — he has no intention of working together with the players.
Jones wants the protests gone on his terms and his terms only.
A couple days later, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins called Jones a bully who is using his position as owner to intimidate any player who dares to think individually or have voice.
Malcolm Jenkins calls Cowboys owner Jerry Jones a bully after Jones recently said he would make his players stand for the anthem. pic.twitter.com/noeHrLIlZZ— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) July 27, 2018
But Jones didn’t stop there Wednesday.
Jerry says Trump’s involvement in the anthem is “problematic.” “Everybody would like for it to go away.”— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) July 25, 2018
Jones, a longtime friend of Donald Trump’s, telling reporters that Trump’s involvement is problematic is ironic considering Jones directly involved him. It was the Cowboys owner who had phone calls with Trump about protests and relayed those messages to other owners during league meetings.
Trump’s comments about NFL players protesting were part of the reason a new policy was passed in May, and it was Jones who brought them to the meeting. If Trump’s involvement is problematic, it was partly Jones’ decision to involve him.
And if the goal of a new anthem policy was to take Trump out of the conversation, it didn’t work. Trump didn’t stop speaking negatively and tweeting criticism of NFL players after the new anthem policy was adopted.
Jones should’ve seen that coming because Trump told him that criticizing players “a very winning, strong issue” for him, according to the Wall Street Journal.
And for good measure Wednesday, Jones said he’s still a supporter and owner of several Papa John’s stores, despite recent news that founder John Schnatter used a racial slur on a conference call. Schnatter, who resigned as chairman and then immediately regretted doing so, would like a “do-over,” according to Jones.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jones is no longer talking about the anthem after the backlash last week and canceled several interviews as a consequence. If Jones had a do-over, it probably would’ve been smart to stick to the NFL’s request for owners to stand down for now, because only made things worse last week.