Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones represents the worst of 21-century sports ownership. He has accrued wealth through fleecing the public and thinks that makes him a genius. He thinks he knows more about football than anyone in the room by virtue of his bank account, no matter how many gobsmacking mistakes are on his record. He’s the kind of person who truly seems to think that he doesn’t own merely a franchise but the players.
Coming on the heels of his team’s nail-biting loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jones addressed reporters on the topic of player protests.
Speaking for the entire organization, Jones decreed that “If we are disrespecting the flag then we won’t play. Period. We’re going to respect the flag and I’m going to create the perception of it.”
Yes, he wants to coerce his players to respect the flag and anthem, as a tribute to freedom. Jones has no right do to this, from a legal and labor—let alone a moral—perspective, yet he is undeterred.
This has thrilled Donald Trump, to whom Jones handed a million dollars last year for his “inauguration committee,” because it aligns with Trump’s efforts to demonize black athletes for attempting to raise awareness about police brutality and racial inequality by kneeling or raising a fist while the song plays. Jones said he didn’t realize until he talked to Trump that the rule book prevents players from taking a knee—and if you believe that, there aren’t boots in Texas thick enough to get you through the cow pasture.
Only the most myopic can’t see that this is not about the flag. It’s about a craven politician trying to distract people from a train wreck of a presidency, and a sports owner driven to coerce obedience among the players he refers to as his “boys.”
Even if the pundits won’t acknowledge that, it is clear enough to the players, who have had to have numerous team meetings this week to “clear the air” about Jones’s comments. Ironically, last year the Cowboys didn’t have anyone on their roster who was part of any kind of kneeling. But Jones’s words have turned this into a discussion not about police brutality but their own self-respect.
Their anger is rooted not only in his dictates but in his reasoning. As ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported, Jones “was adamant the [anthem] policy is in best interest of players, who ‘need consequences’ to stand up to peer pressure.” The racist paternalism in this statement is beyond caricature.