Less than two weeks ago, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones framed the NFL’s changing vantage on peaceful protest in what appeared to be progressive terms. He talked about “listening” and having “grace” when it came to protests. And he said all of this without a hint of his seemingly immovable stance from past seasons, when Jones expected his players to stand for the national anthem with their toes on one singular line.
That was then, Jones said earlier this month. This is now.
Well, funny thing about “then” and “now” — the more Jones speaks, the more those two timeframes are starting to sound like the same thing.
In terms that were far less ambiguous than earlier this month, Jones told the Cowboys’ flagship radio station 105.3 The Fan that he’s looking for a compromise on kneeling for the national anthem. Then he described the compromise in terms that sounded like the same compromise from 2017. Specifically, the same accommodation that Jones took part in during a road game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 25, 2017, when the Cowboys owner and his players knelt together before the national anthem and then stood together once the anthem began playing.
Essentially, Jones said Tuesday that he’s looking to repeat that 2017 compromise in some form — not necessarily create a new compromise that would be more in line with the NFL’s changing stance on when peaceful protest can occur.
Asked during his radio appearance if the hosts were correct in deciphering that Jones was looking for a compromise similar to the one in 2017, the Cowboys owner said that was correct.
“Yes, you are,” Jones said. “That’s fair. That, at the end of the day, was a recognition that we supported our players. I knelt with our players, as you know, on a personal basis. 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. That’s the kind of thing that we’ll be looking to see if we can implement.”
At the very least, that appears to be a departure from some other NFL teams and the messaging from the league office over the last several months, which has become more open to embracing players engaging in peaceful protests, including during the anthem. Jones appeared to skirt the edge of that messaging earlier in August, when he kept his position on protesting vague.
That stance has come into focus for two reasons. First is the reality that Jones took a hard line against protests by his team following his 2017 kneeling moment against the Cardinals, and second is that by mid-August, at least two Dallas players (defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy) had made their intentions to kneel in the season opener publicly known.
McCoy has since suffered a season-ending injury and was cut. Poe reiterated his position Sunday, telling reporters that his intent was still to kneel in the opener — although he also hadn’t met with Jones to discuss it yet.
“I do still plan on kneeling,” Poe said. “But we haven’t had a conversation yet. But we did have a team meeting where he kind of expressed a couple of feelings. He always told us that he has an open door for us to talk to him at anytime. I look forward to taking advantage of that and just getting in his ear and seeing how he’s feeling about it. … There’s still words to be had between us, too, so we’ll do that.
“I’m not saying that anybody else is wrong for not doing it or whatever their cause is,” Poe continued. “But I just felt like I just wanted to do it for me and the statement I wanted to make.”
Jones said on Tuesday he plans to meet with Poe, but appeared to reiterate that the team will continue to be sensitive to fans who don’t want to see players protest during the anthem.
“By the time that we have the first game I will have visited with him, more than likely, on an individual basis,” Jones said of Poe. “All of that will come to play and we’ll have a moment that recognizes what he’s trying to do and the way he’s trying to do it. And everybody’s going to be sensitive to — on the other hand — be sensitive to what it is we’re about. We’re out there to ask the fans to follow and be attentive to us. We’re well aware of the issue and well aware of where Dallas Cowboys fans are on it. All of that will be put in the hopper. We’ll see how we handle it.”
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