Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and his son, Stephen, the team CEO, either didn’t get the memo that they’re supposed to play nice when it comes to discussing the national anthem and hitting pause on the implementation of the rule owners came up with in May, or they did get the memo and don’t care.
Jerry Jones said on Wednesday that Cowboys players will stand for the anthem, “toe on the line,” and a day later Stephen implied that players who did not follow that directive would be cut.
It hasn’t been sitting well with many players and fans, and the de-facto spokesman for the Players’ Coalition, Eagles’ safety Malcolm Jenkins, had plenty to say about it on Friday.
Jerry Jones is ‘a bully’
Jenkins, who did an interview with NBC Nightly News that aired earlier this week, was unsparing in his opinions on a variety of matters, including Jerry Jones and the rest of the NFL’s franchise owners.
Asked about recent conversations he’s had with Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie and Jones’ comments, Jenkins said, “Jeffrey’s been very supportive of us from the beginning. I don’t see Jeffrey as a bully like Jerry Jones is. Lucky for me, I don’t play for the Cowboys, nor would I want to.
“It’s unfortunate that you have owners like him that use his position to intimidate and intentionally thwart even the idea of his players thinking individually or having a voice about issue(s) that effect their communities daily. It’s unfortunate.”
As noted by Calvin Watkins of The Athletic Dallas, Jones did comment about the racial disparity in prison populations and agrees with players’ concerns over police brutality. But he is unbending when it comes to standing for the anthem, which teams weren’t even on the field for a decade ago, aka before the Department of Defense began its since-abandoned program of paying teams for patriotic displays.
Jenkins called on other owners, including Lurie, to challenge Jones.
“The one thing, is when you have owners like Jerry Jones who speak so strongly and has drawn his line in the sand and has been very vocal about it and you’ve had other owners be very quiet, well Jerry Jones is now the voice of of NFL ownership so unless you have other owners come out with some definitive statements in support, they’re going to allow Jerry Jones to push the narrative for not only NFL owners but the NFL as a whole,” Jenkins said.
Lurie is “included in that. Every owner has a voice, and will have to decide what they want to do. Silence is compliance. If you don’t speak on it, you allow it.”
‘They’ve been right along with us’
Jenkins is bothered that some, including Jones, continue to frame it as an “anthem protest” when it has never been about protesting the song or, especially, military members, because some owners and team officials have been part of the work that players are doing and in meetings with players.
But President Donald Trump continues to hammer the issue, and some owners keep trying to appease him.
“They’re afraid of our president I think they’re afraid of half of our fan base so they try to appease both sides and they end up not satisfying anybody,” Jenkins said. “(Owners) know more than anybody that it’s not about the flag, it’s not about the anthem. They’ve been right along with us. They met with police along with us, we invited them to our events, they’ve seen our meetings with community activists.
“They know it has nothing to do with the military. The fact that they continue that rhetoric further divides this league and further divide players and owners and even our country. It continues to push that narrative that’s frankly not true.”
But if you’re expecting Jenkins to back down, it’s not going to happen.
“The longer Jerry Jones continues to say stupid stuff in the media about how he wants to bully his players, great, you guys will bring cameras to me and i’ll talk about how police brutality needs to end, how we need to end mass incarceration and how we need to have better school systems for our kids and inner city youths,” he said.
Meetings may not mean much
In announcing last week that it would not be implementing the rule owners haphazardly came up with in May, without the input of players, the NFL and NFL Players’ Association said they’d be meeting to try to come to an agreement on how best to move forward.
The two sides were slated to meet Friday, but Jenkins said the meeting won’t mean much if Jones keeps indicating he won’t even acknowledge the policy he agreed to in May.
“At the end of the day they could have a conversation and still decide to do what they want to do. I think it’s good they finally are talking to players about it but we’ll see,” Jenkins said. “While you have the NFL office meeting with the NFLPA, simultaneously you have Jerry Jones speaking out about how not only is he going to ignore the policy but that everybody has to come out.
“There’s always this speaking out of both ends from the league where it’s ‘we support our players’ then you put in a policy where you take away their voices. Hopefully you’ll have the majority of owners speak out on whatever side of this they stand.”