The National Football League recently announced a new policy: Its players cannot kneel for the national anthem. Even so, the rule has earned controversy, since it’s unclear what punishments would occur for players who protest — plus, athletes can stay in the locker room during the anthem if they wish.
In essence, people wanted players to stand for the national anthem, period. But the NFL has been flaky on creating such a rule.
The Dallas Cowboys, on the other hand, are more clear-cut in their rules (there’s a reason they’re nicknamed “America’s Team”).
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reiterated his stance on the kneeling situation this week.
“Our policy is you stand during the anthem, toe on the line,” he said this week at a press conference.
This is the same policy his team had in place last season — and none of his players disobeyed it.
“He’s the boss. That’s above my pay grade,” defensive end Taco Charlton said, according to NBC Sports.
Linebacker Sean Lee affirmed this — and admitted he is proud to be an American. “I think I’m going to do what I’ve always done, and stand,” he said. “Obviously, I believe that there’s social injustice that needs to change in this country, that’s very serious. But I also believe that I’m going to stand for the anthem, because I feel like I’m blessed to be an American, and I’m blessed to have two grandfathers who served. These ideas are not mutually exclusive.”
“I know one thing: Our locker room has stayed united,” Sean Lee added. “We’ve respected everybody’s opinion. We’re going to be a group that stays united and works toward a common goal.”
Linebacker Jaylon Smith and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence were both also fine with the policy.
Corner Jourdan Lewis added that while he sees social justice as a worthwhile cause, he does not think taking a knee during the national anthem does anything positive. “You’ve got to do it the right way, of course,” Lewis said. “[Colin] Kaepernick did some great things … As a team aspect, we’ve got to come together and see what can we do to actually change things. I think that’ll be more effective — coming together as a team and understanding things need to be changed in this nation, not just with a gesture. We understand. We understand out there. But we understand we have a goal, and we need to accomplish that goal.”
Running back Ezekiel Elliott told reporters on Friday that the Cowboys’ decision to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” just shows our culture. It shows we have unity. We’re going to stand as one.”
President Donald Trump praised Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for his firm policy. Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday morning, “Way to go Jerry. This is what the league should do!”
Way to go Jerry. This is what the league should do! https://t.co/yEP1jK57xi
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2018
Jerry Jones’ respect for the country — and our police officers — is nothing new. In 2016, he flew nearly 200 police officers and their families from North Little Rock, Arkansas (his hometown), out to Dallas and treated them to free Cowboys tickets; the travel and tickets were valued at over $300,000. Plus, earlier that year, his team put in a request to the league to wear helmet decals to honor five slain police officers in Dallas. However, the league rejected that request.
At the moment, it’s unclear what the rest of the league is going to do when the first national anthems of the 2018 season are played. But the Cowboys clearly have set their standard and put themselves in a position to avoid that drama. For the players, the focus will be on winning football games. After all, winning games and earning revenue — not virtue-signaling and being disrespectful toward the national anthem and our country — are what the league should be all about.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.