If Dallas Cowboys stars like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant protest during the anthem, will owner Jerry Jones back down?
Player protests during the national anthem became the biggest story through the first quarter of the NFL season. So, the unabashed owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, emphatically stated his position to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, disrespect the anthem and flag, then ride the bench. Jones says there will be no exceptions to this mandate. However, he has previously set far worse aside in lieu of winning. Let’s explore why Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant could force Jones to reverse course.
The Cowboys are currently 2-3. The three losses equal the amount they had all of last season. Still, their stars have carried the load. Prescott, Elliott and Bryant have combined to score 18 of Dallas’ 26 offensive touchdowns. Is Jerry Jones willing to sit the team’s best players? Would they really turn to Kellen Moore? Moore has not thrown a regular season pass in two years. And the Cowboys’ upcoming schedule will be unforgiving. Dallas will return from their bye week to face a hapless San Francisco 49ers team. Then, it gets so real. The combined records of the following four opponents is 14-4. This is not the best time to deploy backups into action.
Former NFL coach Herm Edwards provided the answer nearly 15 years ago. All together now, “You play to win the game.” But Edwards didn’t have to tell Jerry Jones this. Jones is notorious for paying steep public relations prices for winning games. Historically, he meets real misconduct by players with compassion rather than consequence. Consider the following in regards to why Jones will back down if challenged by his star players.
In 1996, former star receiver Michael Irvin found himself facing a felony possession of cocaine charge. Have you heard of the infamous “White House?” More recently, Josh Brent’s drunken-driving incident resulted in the death of teammate Jerry Brown. Shockingly, Brent was on the Cowboys’ sideline (though inactive) a week later during a nationally televised game. He now works in the team’s scouting department. Randy Gregory is currently serving a one-year suspension for a third violation of the NFL’s drug policy. Jerry Jones even signed Greg Hardy fresh off a domestic violence case. He continues to support Zeke Elliott through his own domestic violence accusation. He’s never suspended star players before. There is no evidence suggesting Jones will now start sacrificing wins for principles.
In fact, Cowboys’ players should be questioning Jones’ motives for jumping into the fray with these comments. Last week, President Donald Trump suggested NFL owners were afraid of players. Despite the fact no Cowboys players had protested during the anthem, Jones wanted to crush that perception before it grew legs. In so doing, he’s aligned himself with a man who many players feel is a disrespectful adversary. So, why did he kneel with players in the first place? He said to make a statement about equality. Oddly enough, Jones hoped that would ease tensions and the controversy would “go away.” And therein lies the problem. It’s precisely why Prescott, Elliott and Bryant should protest.
Was Jones using this critical social issue as a photo-op? Remember, he made certain the camera found him at the center of the demonstration. He actually believes he could make everything better by dropping to a knee in an expensive powder blue suit jacket. It’s an egregious example of the very arrogance and privilege many players are objecting to. Racial injustice and police brutality are two very real things. Most players on his team could be subject to both daily. Injustices won’t just “go away.” If that’s Jones’ idea of supporting the players, then he should have kept it.
But obviously, there’s a reason Jerry Jones is willing to stick out his chest in this manner. He’s stuck by his players through tough times. Perhaps this is a way of securing blind loyalty from them. So, Jones is confident no player would dare challenge his authority. And maybe he’s right. It might be poor taste to advocate for players to rebel against owners, but why not now? Jones, like many detractors, hijacked the narrative and made it about the flag. He’s choosing to condemn the method of protest without ever acknowledging its purpose. If you won’t recognize the purpose of the struggle, how can you genuinely support it?
The 74-year-old billionaire has only escalated this polarizing issue. He’s never cared much for public perception. The Dallas Cowboys have willfully accepted players associated with drugs, domestic violence and even manslaughter. But we all learned together that Jerry Jones draws the hard-line at peacefully exercising your first constitutional right. He says there will be no compromise because he believes he holds all the leverage.
If the NBA and Missouri Tigers football team taught us anything, its leverage lies with the players. They are the true power. There are no sports without players. There are no fans and advertisers without players. And when players are unified in using their leverage, no owner nor university president can stop them. Jerry Jones better hope these players decide against wielding said power to call his bluff.