On Sunday evening, after his team’s last-minute loss to the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters that players on his team will stand for the flag, and that there will be no disrespecting of the flag.
His words came after Vice President Mike Pence attended the Colts-49ers pregame ceremonies in Indianapolis only to leave after Niners players, as has been happening for a year, kneeled during the anthem.
Jones’ statement in particular flies in the face of the public words of many NFL owners, who have said, in varying ways, that while they prefer their players stand, they respect their decision to exercise their First Amendment right to a peaceful protest. The league does not have a hard rule demanding that players stand.
Also, in recent weeks, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has held meetings with a select group of owners, players and members of the NFL Players Association to discuss the protests.
But after Sunday, NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith felt it was time stand up for his players once again, releasing a statement on his personal Twitter page:
“Last week both the Commissioner and the Chair of the NFL Management Council [and Giants co-owner] John Mara were clear when they assured our union leaders, in the presence of other owners, that they would respect the Constitutional rights of our members without retribution,” Smith wrote.
“I look forward to the day when everyone in Management can unite and truly embrace and articulate what the Flag stands for: ‘Liberty and Justice for All’ instead of some of them just talking about standing. We look forward to continuing our talks with them on this very issue.
“No player is disrespecting our Country or our Flag. As thousands have shown in the past, it takes bravery and courage to speak and confront these issues as our players have, especially when it is unpopular with some.
“There is room for Management to do the same and maybe then players do not have to risk the taunts and threats alone. This is their opportunity to lead as well and will be a true test of their motto that ‘Football is Family.'”
Players have said repeatedly that their intent is not to be disrespectful, whether to the military or the flag, and that they are kneeling to spur conversation and hopefully change.
Smith’s top deputy, George Atallah, was also on Twitter on Monday.
“Athletes,” he wrote. “Through everything that’s happened in the past few weeks, consider the power you wield.”
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