Last year, an item of fake news (the real kind) emerged regarding the anthem controversy, claiming that specific owners had told told players “this is MY stage” and instructing them to stand for the anthem. One of the owners to whom the fake news was attributed was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. This year, Jones has become the first owner to actually send that message, explaining it to reporters on Sunday night and repeating the same message to ESPN tonight, which of course prompted ESPN to act like Jones was telling ESPN something new.
Here’s something that’s actually new. President Trump has praised Jones for his sudden hard-line stance on standing for the anthem: “A big salute to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who will BENCH players who disrespect our Flag. ‘Stand for Anthem or sit for game!'”
The NFL, which according to the NFLPA has told players that they will have the right to sit or kneel during the anthem, has yet to address the comments from Jones. The league likely will do so during the next media briefing from spokesman Joe Lockhart, an event that could happen as soon as Tuesday.
During that next media briefing, Lockhart surely will be asked to respond to the latest tweet from President Trump, the new position from Jones that players must stand, and the decision of Vice President Mike Pence to leave the 49ers-Colts game after 23 members of the 49ers roster took a knee during the anthem. (On Sunday, Lockhart told PFT via email that the league had no comment regarding Pence’s early exit from the 49ers-Colts game in Indianapolis.)
Jones seems to believe that NFL rules justify taking the position that players must stand, even though the relevant rule says “should” not “must.” If Jones intends to enforce the rule that way (and if the NFL lets him do it), it could spark a legal battle between management and labor aimed at interpreting the language of the provision.