Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones threatened to bench any NFL players who “disrespect the flag” during the national anthem by kneeling or linking arms.
Jones made the announcement following the team’s 35-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday, saying the NFL cannot tolerate its players disrespecting the flag by kneeling or linking arms as popularized by Colin Kaepernick.
“If we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period ... We’re going to respect the flag and I’m going to create the perception of it,” Jones said.
Players across nearly every professional league have stepped up the “take a knee” movement in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's attacks on players, calling them sons of bitches in one tweet. The protest is against racism and police brutality initiated by the former San Francisco 49er quarterback in 2016.
According to the 74-year old owner, nothing is more important to him than showing respect for the nation’s flag and anthem, and his team will set the example or get off the field.
“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. So we’re clear,” Jones said in an interview in response to Vice President Mike Pence’s departure from an Indianapolis game after around a dozen players “took a knee.”
“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,” Jones said, adding that by disrespecting the flag, players are also doing a disservice to their teammates by creating a poor impression of each other.
Other NFL team owners have followed suit, as Dolphins owner Stephen Ross agreed with Jones, saying Sunday that Trump's statements completely altered the purpose behind kneeling during the anthem. Ross said he felt it was "incumbent" on players to end the movement, as the public now views it as disrespectful.
“Trump has made (standing for the anthem) about patriotism,” Ross said. “It’s so important if that’s what the country is looking at to look at it differently … It’s a different dialogue. Whenever you’re dealing with the flag, you’re dealing with something different.”
The NFL responded later Sunday evening, stating they had no intention of prohibiting player’s constitutional rights to express their political beliefs.
“We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects,” the statement said. “That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave.”