The Dallas Morning News
ARLINGTON — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday that any of his players who disrespect the flag during the national anthem won’t play in games.
Jones is the first NFL owner to publicly make a stand about disciplining players who kneel during the anthem. Jones didn’t specify what kind of other demonstration he would consider disrespectful.
Cowboys defensive linemen Damontre’ Moore and David Irving stood alongside teammates during the national anthem before Sunday’s home game against Green Bay at AT&T Stadium. At the conclusion of the anthem, the two players raised their fists.
“I don’t know about that. But if there is anything that is disrespectful to the flag then we will not play,” Jones said after the Cowboys’ 35-31 loss. “You understand? If we are disrespecting the flag then we won’t play. Period.
“We’re going to respect the flag, and I’m going to create the perception of it. And we have.”
Jones addressed the media for 22 minutes after the game. He spent the final seven minutes talking about how he’s adamant that Cowboys and other NFL players should stand for the national anthem in the wake of dozens of players around the league kneeling the first five weeks of the season.
Jones’ strong stand for respecting the flag was sparked when he was asked about Vice President Mike Pence walking out of the 49ers-Colts game Sunday in Indianapolis after about a dozen San Francisco players took a knee during the anthem. It was the latest move by President Donald Trump’s administration to oppose NFL players who don’t stand for the anthem.
Pence took to Twitter to explain why he left the game suddenly: “I left today’s Colts game because [Trump] and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”
Jones was asked about his thoughts on Pence leaving the 49ers-Colts game.
“We cannot in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” Jones said. “I know the vice president did leave, because in his opinion the teams were. We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. Just so we’re clear.
“I’m saying our vice president, if in his opinion, there’s disrespect of the flag then he should express himself however he wants to say. He’s got rights, too. He felt that not standing for the flag is disrespectful. I do, too. The league in my mind should absolutely take the rules we’ve got on the books and make sure that we do not give the perception that we’re disrespecting the flag.”
Moore and Irving acknowledged after the game raising their fists at the conclusion of Sunday’s anthem. Irving, who made his season debut Sunday after a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, declined to detail why he raised his fist. He said he wants the action to speak for itself.
Moore, who was suspended the first two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, said he’s raised his fist at the conclusion of the anthem the last three games.
“It’s just something that I do,” Moore said. “I’ve got my morals, I’ve got my values on the things that I think about. I don’t want to bring unwarranted attention, but at the same time there are certain things people are doing it for.”
Moore said he doesn’t believe his demonstration is disrespectful to the flag. He said he has several family members with military backgrounds, including a brother who just returned from a tour of duty in Germany.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion,” Moore said. “Who is to say I’m right? Who is to say that they’re right and I’m wrong? At the end of the day you do whatever you do, but I know that I’m going to stand up and not disrespect the flag. I don’t do anything to cause unwarranted attention during that process. Whatever I do afterwards, I don’t feel like it should matter, honestly.”
No Cowboys player has knelt during the anthem during the last month as pressure has mounted across the league with more and more demonstrations.
The Cowboys found a way to show solidarity without disparaging the anthem before a national televised Monday Night Football game Sept. 25 in Arizona.
Two weeks ago, every NFL team participated in some form of demonstration during the anthem after Trump, speaking at a rally in Alabama, sparked protests by calling for NFL owners to fire players who decline to stand for the anthem.
The Cowboys chose the path of least resistance. Cowboys players, coaches and executives came onto the field before the anthem and stood arm-in-arm before taking a knee. Jones; his sons, Stephen and Jerry Jr.; his daughter, Charlotte; and coach Jason Garrett were among those on the field. Jones and his family are usually in a suite during the anthem.
After the Cowboys knelt, fans at University of Phoenix Stadium booed. The Cowboys then went to the sideline as the flag was stretched across the field. The Cowboys and the Jones family again locked arms as they stood for the anthem.
The last two games, the Cowboys have done as they normally do before games and stood side by side for the anthem on the sideline.
Trump called Jones after the Cowboys’ demonstration in Arizona. Jones said Trump told him about an NFL policy that’s in the NFL game operations manual that’s distributed to every team that dictates players must stand, face the flag, hold their helmet in their left hand and refrain from talking during the national anthem.
“He shared with me that there’d been a rule on the books in our game operations … that’s been there for years,” Jones said of his conversation. “He said, ‘This could have all been resolved.’
“Whether I agree with him or not, I also said, ‘We’re friends, but there are several things we don’t agree about.'”
Jones was one of at least nine NFL owners to donate to Trump’s inaugural committee. His $1 million donation came via Glenstone Limited Partnership, a group that shares an address with the Cowboys’ Frisco team headquarters and has state filings that show direct connections to Jones.
Moore was asked if he’d ever kneel for the anthem in the wake of Jones’ comments.
“I don’t know what I would do when that time comes,” Moore said. “I do a lot of stuff that is so sporadic, so who is to say I wouldn’t? At the end of the day it just depends on how I feel and what’s my reasoning for it. If I feel a certain way then I’m going to do that.”
Jones didn’t mince words about his expectations for NFL players.
“The whole deal is political and incited by politics,” Jones said. “But let me be real, real clear: The thing that the National Football League needs to do and the Dallas Cowboys are going to do is stand for the flag. We’re going to do that.”
Update, Sunday 8:37 p.m.: The NFLPA has released a statement defending protests and players’ constitutional rights.
“We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects,” the statement says. “That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave.”
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