Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made his position on the national anthem protests quite clear on Sunday. He said that any player “disrespecting the flag” would not play, but it sounds like he doesn’t have the power to make that call.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart spoke on a media conference call Tuesday and cited language that says players “should” stand for the anthem, but he stopped short of stating that teams may not force them to stand. Lockhart also said that the issue will be “front and center on the agenda” for next week’s quarterly ownership meeting, and that it could be changed.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out that if a change is made to the language on that policy of standing during the anthem — from “should” to “must” for example — the NFL may have to collectively bargain with the NFL Players Association assuming the NFLPA disagrees on the change. And if the NFLPA disagrees — which recent events would point to that happening — there could be a legal challenge to change that kind of thing unilaterally.
The rumors of teams forcing players to stand might be stemming from this quote from Jones via The Dallas Morning News:
“If there is anything disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period,” said Jones. “We’re going to respect the flag and I’m going to create the perception of it. …I know this. We cannot in the NFL, in any way, give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag.
“We cannot do that. I know [Vice President Mike Pence] did leave because in his opinion, the teams were. 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.
“Just so we’re clear.”
There’s no way of knowing if this new information will influence Cowboys players to stand or kneel for the anthem at their next game, but it is certainly an interesting new development.