The NFL might have thought they had gotten past the national anthem controversy a couple of weeks ago, but then last week the Dallas Cowboys put it out front once more. First team owner Jerry Jones publicly said not only did all Dallas Cowboy team members have to stand at attention during the playing of the anthem, but that any who either stayed in the locker room or made any other type of protest would no longer be members of the Cowboys.
That was then followed by team captain and QB Dak Prescott’s comments in the Dallas Morning News. Though Prescott said he was making no comment or judgment about those who did kneel or protest, he definitely injected himself into the furor with this statement:
“I never protest,” Prescott said. “I never protest during the anthem, and I don’t think that’s the time or the venue to do so. The game of football has always brought me such peace, and I think it does the same for a lot of people – a lot of people playing the game, a lot of people watching the game, a lot of people who have any impact of the game – so when you bring such controversy to the stadium, to the field, to the game it takes away. It takes away from that, it takes away from the joy and the love that football brings a lot of people.”
The threat from Jerry Jones was reaffirmed by the team’s executive vice president Stephen James, who said that the club would cut or terminate the contract of any player who protested the anthem.
Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the most outspoken NFL players and a member of the Players Committee, had this response to the Jones ultimatum in talking to NBC Sports Phladelphia, “I would still do it (protest),” Jenkins said. “I mean, I’ve been that committed to it because that decision is not mine. I made the decision a year ago that I was going to use my platform in a way to create positive change, both on the field and off the field, and having someone tell me I couldn’t do that simply because, you know,a president or your bottom line is getting ready to be affected, that wouldn’t deter me.”
Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey also reiterated last week he would continue his protest, though he doesn’t kneel, but instead raises a fist in the air during the playing of the anthem. Casey said he was unconcerned about fines,and also about negative reaction from fans.
What makes the Jones move so instructive is that the NFL was supposed to be discussing with the players a resolution of something that really wasn’t a crisis until owners overreacted to a blowhard in the White House. Contrary to the garbage coming from Trump, as Jenkins, Casey, indeed the person who started all this two years ago Colin Kaepernick have all said, the protests have NOTHING whatsover to do with the flag or the military.
They are about the response to police misconduct and other areas of social injustice in America period. Trump and his minions seized on the flag as a way to detract from the reasons for the protests, as well as an attempt to discredit those protesting. Somehow lost in all the ongoing furor is the fact that the idea to kneel came from a veteran Kaepernick spoke with early in the protest. He suggested to Kaepernick that this would make the point more significantly than remaining seated during the playing of the anthem, which many WOULD interpret as being disrespectful to the flag.
Fortunately, sensible heads are starting to have some impact in this discussion. The co-owner of the New York Giants Steve Tisch said none of his team’s players would receive punishments or finest for anthem protests. He added that Trump “has no understanding of why they (the players) take a knee or why they’re protesting.”
Both the owners of the Steelers and Falcons have also now weighed in on the issue. The Steelers’ Art Rooney II said he believes there is “common ground” to be found between the league and the players in setting a policy. The Falcons’ owner Art Blank said he sensed a strong connection between the players and owners in terms of finding a solution. “I don’t think it’s to the benefit of anybody in the league, players or league or the causes themselves, to have that kind of uproar around it and have the President of the United States in the middle of it,” Blank said. “My hope is the fact that they’re talking now..is that some sort of compromise will come out of it that will not compromise us focusing on issues.”
If reasonable people prevail, and the likes of both Trump and Jones are ignored, a solution to the issue that maintains the players’ right to protest and also gives the NFL some sense of stability can be found.