After Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reiterated his vow on Monday to bench any player who chooses to protest during the national anthem by taking a knee, he was praised by President Donald Trump on Twitter, who offered a “big salute” to the billionaire businessman.
Jones had said earlier Monday that Trump had personally “reminded” him about the NFL’s game operations manual, which includes a reference to how players should behave during the national anthem. Citing the manual on Sunday, Jones had said that any player caught “disrespecting the flag … will not play.”
As Sports Illustrated notes, the league’s game operations manual — which contains policy guidelines, not rules — suggests that players “should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left land and refrain from talking” when the anthem plays.
Referencing the policy again on Monday, Jones told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that there “will be no exceptions” to the policy for his team.
Jones had stated earlier that he would insist that players follow the anthem guidelines even if that meant “looking non-supportive of our players.”
“There is no room here if it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you’re disrespecting the flag, we will be non-supportive of each other,” Jones said on Sunday. “We will not disrespect the flag.”
Last month, when Trump first stirred controversy by suggesting that athletes who knelt during the anthem should be “fired,” Jones had knelt with the Cowboys before “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a game against the Arizona Cardinals. The team then stood and locked arms during the anthem.
Jones told Mortensen that he thought the controversy over the anthem would “go away” after the Cardinals game.
On Monday, in the aftermath of Jones’ original comments, the executive director of the NFL Players Association issued a sharp statement reminding Jones and others that the silent protests sweeping the NFL are not demonstrations against the anthem or the flag, but rather a protest against racial injustice and inequality.
“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,” said DeMaurice Smith.
“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.’”
Smith also noted that the NFL had vowed to “respect the Constitutional rights of our members without retribution.”