FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, in a meeting on Wednesday with players and coaches, said his stance on the national anthem protests was rooted in a desire to play the bad guy and deflect attention from the players, according to a source.
In the meeting, Jones sought to ensure that players also saw the bigger picture regarding the business side of the situation, including concerns over TV ratings and sponsors, the source said.
Some Cowboys players were frustrated by the recent comments of Jones, who took a knee and stood arm-in-arm with them prior to the playing of the national anthem before a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 25.
One player said Jones expected the Cowboys will continue to stand during the anthem. Another said the players had a better feeling for Jones’ comments, because at first he wondered if Jones had turned against them, according to the source.
Jones, in the team meeting held after practice, also offered the players a chance to speak with him one-on-one, the source said. Players had been told to bring their concerns about Jones’ comments to the meeting.
“It went well,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said of the of the meeting, while attending a promotional event. “I mean we ironed out everything that we needed to at this time.”
Since Sunday, Jones has been outspoken regarding his stance that players must “not disrespect the flag” and that they must stand for the anthem or they will be benched.
Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, Jones said the players could express themselves prior to the national anthem in a similar manner to how the team handled things before their game at Arizona. Before the anthem of that game, players stood arm in arm with Jones, other front-office executives, coaches and staff and took a knee. During the anthem, they stood arm in arm.
In the two games since, the Cowboys have stood on the sideline as normal.
“If there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play,” Jones said after Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers. “Understand? We will not … if we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period.”
Jones reiterated the stance on numerous occasions since. A local labor union has filed a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board against the Cowboys, claiming Jones’ threats prevent allowable, “concerted activity” at work. The team and the NFL declined comment on the filing.
By the time the locker room opened to the media on Wednesday, a good portion of the players headed to their cars. Because the Cowboys are on their bye, there are no post-practice meetings. Those who did speak were tight-lipped. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, a captain, said “no comment,” seven different times to questions about Jones’ recent statements and the anthem controversy.
Place-kicker Dan Bailey, who also is a captain, serves as the Cowboys’ representative to the NFL Players Association. He said there have been numerous conference calls with the players’ association regarding the situation.
“I think my first responsibility is to listen and provide that forum for them and then my next job is to relay that to the people that I talk to in that representation,” Bailey said. “So in that forum, I’m more of just a middle man, be an ear here in the locker room and provide feedback to them and then like I said we can have the discussion amongst all the teams as far as that goes.”
Bailey said the team’s focus did not appear to be affected Wednesday.
“I think, from my position, the status quo is the same,” Bailey said. “We come in every day to work and our focus is on practice and trying to win ballgames. So in that sense, yeah, I think we’re definitely a unified group.”
As the media entered the locker room Wednesday, a song came through Scandrick’s wireless speakers by YG and Nipsey Hussle. It was an explicit rap song directed at President Donald Trump, whose comments regarding players standing for the national anthem or be fired triggered collective protests from teams all across the league, including the Cowboys.
“I was listening to my music,” Scandrick said. “I like that YG song.”
“The message will be put out,” Quin said. “The message, it will be out. Clearly.”
ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein contributed to this report.