NFL players kneeling as a form of peaceful protest has been a hot-button topic over the last few years. In light of the social justice movement, it has only garnered more attention as the 2020 NFL season approaches. In fact, several of Jerry Jones’ own players have spoken openly about their desire to kneel during the national anthem. On Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys owner outlined his plan for his players kneeling.
And in doing so, he just created a huge problem that could come back to bite him.
Jerry Jones took a knee himself in 2017
Colin Kaepernick started a dialogue about police brutality and racial inequality by taking a knee in 2016. While he sacrificed his own NFL career to bring light to these causes, his mission has carried on thanks to countless other athletes.
During the 2017 season, Jerry Jones faced a monumental decision about Cowboys players kneeling. Many expected him to flat-out refuse to let anyone do so. Ultimately, he reached a compromise with his team.
On Sept. 25, Jones and his team collectively took a knee on the field before the playing of the national anthem in a game against the Arizona Cardinals. The action took some by surprise considering Jones’ previous comments about the peaceful form of protest.
While the Cowboys did stand for the anthem, everyone kept their arms locked in a sign of unity. Ultimately, Jones seemed to satisfy his players’ desire to express themselves without relenting on his stance about standing for the anthem.
Social justice has been a big topic in Dallas this summer
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, athletes from all walks of life have voiced their feelings on social justice matters such as police brutality and racial inequality. This offseason, the Cowboys brought in Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, both of whom have spoken publicly about these issues.
In June, McCoy appeared on ESPN to discuss police brutality and Floyd’s death. He did not hold back in his criticism of Jones for not speaking up about these issues.
“You can’t be silent at a time like this,” McCoy said. “When things are not going well for the team, you can hear him screaming. Well, this is life. This is bigger than just football; it’s bigger than money; it’s bigger than winning a Super Bowl. Something needs to be said.”
Jones then got called out by Poe, who also criticized the Cowboys owner for staying silent. He then told ESPN that he will likely kneel this season during the national anthem and recently confirmed that his stance has not changed.
Jones just created a huge problem for Cowboys players planning to kneel
With the 2020 NFL season rapidly approaching, that has only intensified the discussion about players kneeling during the national anthem. On Tuesday, Jerry Jones spoke about the anthem protests on 105.3 The Fan. However, he just created a huge problem for Cowboys players who planned to kneel during the anthem by confirming his desire for a similar compromise he reached with his team in 2017.
“I knelt with our players, as you know, on a personal basis,” Jones explained. “But as a team, we all knelt together before the anthem, and then we stood for the anthem to recognize what its symbol is to America. I thought that was good.”
Jones put it bluntly, “That’s the kind of thing that we’ll be looking to see if we can implement.”
If the Cowboys owner intends on following through with that plan, it could create a major problem in the locker room. Poe has already made it clear that he wants to kneel during the anthem. Is Jones willing to upset one of his key defenders—along with other players who may follow suit—to satisfy his own interest? The trickle-down effect of a strict anthem protest policy could disrupt a locker room that already has to adjust to a new coaching staff.
Because of social media, today’s athletes have more power to express themselves than ever before. If Jones upsets his players, he could receive major public backlash. Any distraction that takes away from the Cowboys’ focus on the field will only make their Super Bowl path more difficult.
Ultimately, Jerry Jones just created a huge problem by confirming he wants a similar compromise that he reached with his players in 2017. However, this is a different team with plenty of new faces. We will have to see if Jones sticks to his plan or if he deviates in order to prevent a big distraction in Dallas.