Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cowboys' Jerry Jones: National anthem controversy 'isn’t good for America’s Team'

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Rev. Al Sharpton explains why Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ decision to make players stand for the national anthem “smacks of a plantation mentality.”
USA Today Sports

Jerry Jones was one of nine NFL owners who contributed money to the inauguration committee of Donald Trump. Yet in a bit of political hindsight, the Dallas Cowboys owner — praised by the President in a Tuesday morning tweet — insists that had the election gone the other way in November, he would have ponied up cash for Hillary Clinton’s inauguration, too.

Through one of the other businesses he heads, Glenstone Limited Partnership, Jones pledged $1 million toward Trump’s inauguration festivities.

“Hillary would’ve gotten exactly the same amount of money,” Jones told USA Today Sports.

Why?

“Just because I support the President,” Jones replied.

Public records show that, while he helped fund inauguration festivities, Jones did not contribute to Trump’s campaign, as was the case for four other NFL owners.

Jones admitted he didn’t contribute to the inauguration committee after President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012.

“But I gave a lot of money to Obama,” Jones said. “I’ve given more money to Democrats than I ever have Republicans.”

More: NFL protest: Commissioner says ‘Everyone should stand for the National Anthem’

More: NFL owners could weigh change on national anthem policy

He refused to delve into specifics of his campaign contributions over the years, insisting that he wants to remove politics from controversy stemming from the NFL’s national anthem protests.

But that’s easier said than done. Especially now.

“The No. 1 thing I have to do is run the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones told USA Today Sports during an interview Monday afternoon. “I can’t get caught up in Trump stuff and all the other issues — no matter what side you’re on. The least pain for the Dallas Cowboys is the perception that we’re honoring the flag.”

Although Jones is concerned that fans perceive anthem protests as disrespectful of the American flag, a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll of 1,000 registered voters indicated by a margin of 51%-42% that they believed the player protests were appropriate. The poll, conducted in late September and early October, also revealed that respondents overwhelmingly consider — by a margin of 68% to 27% — Trump’s criticism of NFL players as inappropriate.

Jones clearly recognizes that the political overtones regarding the NFL and protesting players, ramped up with rhetoric from the White House, isn’t good for league business.

Joe Lockhart, formerly a White House spokesman under Bill Clinton, acknowledged the same during a media briefing Tuesday. He said the issue, which Goodell addressed in a memo to club executives on Tuesday, will be “front and center” when owners gather in New York next week for league meetings. Lockhart said the NFL, its teams and players “are frustrated when we’ve become part of a debate that really isn’t about football.”

Nobody needs to remind Jones about that as he runs the world’s most valuable sports franchise.

“I’m not the President of the United States,” said Jones, arguably the most powerful person in the NFL. “I’m not the Commissioner. I’m in charge of the Dallas Cowboys.

“This just isn’t good for the Dallas Cowboys. This isn’t good for America’s Team.”

When Jones declared this week that he won’t play any Cowboys who refuse to stand for the national anthem — contradicting what NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith contends was an assurance from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other owners that players would not be disciplined for anthem protests — it coincided with the profane suggestion recently from Trump to “get the son of a (expletive) off the field” if players protested.

More: Armour: The real mockery of national anthem was by Vice President Mike Pence

Politically speaking, Jones has aligned himself with Trump when it comes to handling protests. On Tuesday, two days after Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a game in Indianapolis in an apparently staged protest of the 23 San Francisco 49ers players who knelt during The Star-Spangled Banner, Trump tweeted praise for Jones for expressing his team’s policy.

Political football, raging on.

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Follow NFL columnist Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell

PHOTOS: NFL anthem protests

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