UPDATE (7:45 p.m.): All eyes were on America’s team as they came to the sidelines just before kickoff at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday night.
After 105.3 The Fan’s Mike Fisher reported earlier Monday that the Cowboys were discussing how to make “a statement of unity” tonight, the Cowboys did so by locking arms as a team, along with the Jones family, and took a knee for a brief moment before the National Anthem. The entire team and the Jones’ then stood and walked back to the sideline and locked arms during the anthem.
PHOENIX (105.3 THE FAN) – There is no easy answer. But In the wake of President Donald Trump calling for the firing of NFL players who opt for peaceful protest during the National Anthem, the Dallas Cowboys are at work crafting a singular answer.
“Our statement,’’ one team leader told me on the eve of tonight’s nationally-televised Cowboys-at-Cardinals game, “will be a statement of unity.’’
I’ve spoken to seven Cowboys leaders on the subject in the last 48 hours and come away with a handful of conclusions that the Cowboys – from owner Jerry Jones and his family to the players in the locker room – find important.
There are certainly those in the organization offended by Trump saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b— off the field right now?’ Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’’
Those offended include some individuals who may have supported, and still support, the president.
There are certainly those who have sided with Colin Kaepernick from the start, in his efforts meant to bring attention to institutionalized mistreatment of people of color.
At the same time, the Cowboys Leadership Council, made up of about 14 players, has long taken the position that “unity’’ and “positivity’’ are the themes that bond the football team … and themes that can bond beyond.
The Leadership Council has engaged with the Jones family and its members, and now the rest of the locker room, are aware of Jerry’s views here, views he stated clearly on Aug. 22 on 105.3 The Fan with “Shan & RJ’’:
“I just feel so strongly that the act of recognizing the flag is a salute to our country and all of the people that have sacrificed so that we can have the liberties we have,” Jones said. “I feel very strongly that everyone should save that moment for the recognition of the flag in a positive way, so I like the way the Cowboys do it.”
*That in no way should be construed as Jones having “ordered’’ his players to stand, or having issued an “or-else’’ edict. (Worth noting: I don’t dismiss the idea of a player interpreting the combined wishes of Jones and the Leadership Council as an “or-else edict,’’ even though that’s not their intent.) Jones has clearly urged his players to use this moment to remain “respectful’’ … and it’s been made clear to me that his players are comfortable with that as long as “unity’’ is still expressed.
That doesn’t mean Dallas feels the need to be in lock-step with the rest of the league. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFLPA and the 28 teams that played Sunday largely seemed on the same page regarding their employees/citizens’ right to peaceful protest. Goodell’s keyword-characterization of Trump’s attack on the NFL: “Divisive.” The Cowboys’ position, as is their right, will be their own — their collective own.
I’m told the players have discussed the locking of arms during the Anthem.
Numerous people involved tell me that the Joneses’ urging for a “respectful’’ Anthem moment comes with an offer: At any other time, at any other place, management is available to support a player’s cause. This falls in line with Jerry Jones’ well-chronicled “grandfatherly’’ backing of his players on a personal level.
“We have an approach that we believe in,” coach Jason Garrett said the other day, a statement that some interpreted to be a non-statement but that in fact might be quite revealing as to the team’s plans – because the “approach’’ is to remain bonded, no matter what.
Tonight, though it’s not the team’s plan, it’s possible a Cowboys player will do the same. If that happens, he will be within his rights, as will any player or person who chooses to keep his views out of the spotlight.
The Cowboys players obviously know the general view espoused by Jones, who (contrary to anyone’s inflammatory claim) has not issued a directive but has voiced a perspective – which, of course, is within his right. He has, in fact, (contrary to anyone’s inflammatory claim) stated his perspective in the same thoughtful manner that players are stating theirs.
The owner has that right.
The players have that right.
Tonight, their wish is to put those rights on display … together.