Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday any player who disrespects the flag will not play.
Jones’ comments, the strongest made on the anthem controversy, came after he was asked about Vice President Mike Pence leaving the game in Indianapolis early after several San Francisco 49ers players took a knee during the national anthem.
“I know this, we cannot … in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” he said following the Cowboys’ 35-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers. “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.”
Dallas players have stood on the sideline, many with hands over their hearts, during the anthem ever since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling last season in protest of what he believed were instances of racial injustice in the U.S.
Jones said showing respect for the flag and the anthem is more important to him than any potential issues of team unity.
“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. “We will not disrespect the flag.”
Jones said he wasn’t aware of whether any of his players had raised a fist at the end of the anthem before the Green Bay game.
“I don’t know about that,” Jones said. “But if there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play. OK? Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period.”
Additionally, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he changed his view on how his team should handle the national anthem. Ross said because Trump made standing for the national anthem about “patriotism,” he evolved the way he looks at the protest, according to the Miami Herald.
Ross now wants all of the Dolphins players to stand for the anthem. Three Dolphins players – Kenny Stills, Julian Thomas and Michael Thomas – remained off to the sideline during the anthem Sunday.
The NFL has said the game operations manual distributed to teams includes a reference to players standing for the anthem, but that it’s a policy and not a rule. The league has said it doesn’t plan to punish players over anthem protests.
“The league in mind should absolutely take the rules we’ve got on the books and make sure that we do not give the perception that we’re disrespecting the flag,” Jones said.