Cowboys players have become frustrated and, in some cases, angry, with owner Jerry Jones for his remarks in the past week about protests during the national anthem, taking an issue that had not been particularly charged in that locker room to one that is now at the forefront, according to player and union sources.
The Cowboys had been presenting a united gameday display on the matter for the most part. No player had sat or kneeled during the anthem; it was not a prevailing topic among players, and while some individuals were incredibly conflicted about the team's conformity to stand as one, it was viewed largely as something that had been hashed out. But with Jones going on a media campaign this week, beginning shortly after the Cowboys loss to the Packers last Sunday, the dynamics have shifted considerably, the sources said.
Players were surprised Jones became the voice of the anti-protest movement, considering they had been standing, and when Jones intimated he was taking cues from Donald Trump, emotions began to boil.
"This wasn't something that was dominating conversations in that locker room up until this week," said one agent who is close to several players on that team. "It wasn't something guys were really talking about that much, inside the locker room or to their agents. At first, some guys were frustrated by what Jerry said (Sunday), because this hadn't really been a big issue or distraction for them, and by the middle of the week I know some were pissed. It was almost like he started daring somebody on his team to take a knee. At least that's how some players started to look at it."
The Cowboys held a team meeting before players left for the bye week, with Jones trying to tamp down the situation. Still, some players found it odd that Jones was becoming the face of the anti-protest movement at a time when his players were complying with the team policy. The Cowboys (2-3, 1-2 at home) already face plenty of on-field challenges as they chase the division-leading Eagles (5-1), coupled with the distraction of Ezekiel Elliott's looming six-game suspension, so the timing of this controversy struck several players as odd to say the least.