In an attempt to avoid a distraction, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has created an even bigger distraction than a player refusing to stand for the national anthem ever could have. Three days after Jones told reporters that any player who disrespects the flag will not be allowed to play for the Cowboys, he met with the actual players of the Cowboys to discuss his rule.
Dak and Zeke normally talk on Wednesday. Both declined interviews today. Jason Witten was nowhere to be found.— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) October 11, 2017
And players who did speak with reporters refused to divulge what was said in the meeting.
Cowboys players were mostly gone during open locker room session after meeting with Jerry Jones and ones still there answered most questions with "no comment" or turned down interview requests.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) October 11, 2017
Seriously, they really didn't want to talk about it.
Orlando Scandrick no commented 7 questions but pointed to his pink cleats for breast cancer as a cause "they are allowed support"— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) October 11, 2017
Cowboys defensive end David Irving appears to have offered the most information and all he really said was that the meeting produced both answers and questions.
Cowboys DL David Irving on team meeting with Jerry Jones to talk national anthem stance: "It was a private meeting we had. We can't really speak on it." ... Irving was asked if meeting produced answers or raised more questions: "A little bit of both."— Brandon George (@DMN_George) October 11, 2017
It's safe to say that Jones' attempt to avoid a distraction is not going as planned. On Sunday, shortly after the Cowboys lost a heartbreaker to the Packers, Jones revealed to reporters his strict stance on the national anthem.
"If there is anything disrespecting the flag, then we will not play," he said, according to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. "Period. We're going to respect the flag and I'm going to create the perception of it."
On Monday, he doubled down on his stance.
"[Jones] said there are no exceptions to this rule or this policy. Any player who disrespects the flag or does not stand for the anthem will not play in the game," ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported. "And if they want to notify the team before the game, hey I'm not going to do this, they can make them inactive. No exceptions -- he started naming Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott. No exceptions, he said, there are no exceptions."
Jones also revealed that he's been speaking with Donald Trump about the protests.
Jones emphasized NFL game ops manual several times and then this: "You know who reminded me about the game ops policy? Donald Trump."— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) October 10, 2017
Trump, of course, has made it clear that he believes players should be fired for kneeling during the anthem and that the NFL should create a rule to make it mandatory. A rule does not currently exist, but NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said on Tuesday that "there will be a discussion about the entire issue."
The kneeling/sitting during the national anthem began a season ago, when then-49ers quarterback and current free agent Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem to protest racial injustice. His protest spread throughout the league, as several players joined in. Even though Kaepernick has been unable to find a team willing to sign him this season, his protest lived on through players like Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.
Once Trump made his inflammatory remarks about firing players who don't stand for the anthem, the protest grew in size and shifted in message as the vast majority of teams demonstrated during the anthem in a show of unity against Trump. In the immediate aftermath of Trump's comments, Jones and the Cowboys decided to kneel before the anthem, and then stand up and link arms during the anthem.
Now, we know why they stood up for the anthem. Now, we know that if a Cowboys players decides to protest during the national anthem, they'll likely be defying orders. Now, the Cowboys appear to have an actual locker room distraction.