When it comes to the anthem issue, the NFL has taken a break from its habit of issuing edicts, primarily because the NFL realizes that, in this specific case, edicts won’t work. But when it comes to the newly-articulated position of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones regarding his expectation that players will stand for the anthem, the league needs to either issue an edict telling Jones to stop or grant him permission to implement a “stand for the anthem or sit on the bench” ultimatum.
The NFL has remained conspicuously silent about the remark from the Cowboys owner, despite multiple requests for comment from PFT. And the league has not yet conducted a media briefing since Sunday night, even though these ask-us-anything conference calls have become a regular part of the relationship with reporters in recent weeks. (The next media briefing will be occurring later this morning.)
The silence is surprise, because the league currently finds itself caught between a rock and a roll of paper towels. After more than two weeks of trying, the President successfully has driven a wedge, with Jones (and to a lesser extent Dolphins owner Stephen Ross) surrendering to the perception that kneeling or sitting constitutes disrespect of flag, nation, and/or military, even if those kneeling or sitting insist that they mean no disrespect. If the league tells Jones to knock it off, the situation could escalate into layers of people trying to force other people to act or not act, with Jones trying to compel players to stand and the NFL trying to compel Jones to not compel players to stand.
If, on the other hand, the league tells Jones it’s OK to tell players they have to stand, the league would be inviting legal action from the union. Apart from the fact that the labor deal does not give the league the power to force players to stand for the anthem, the internal NFL policy lacks mandatory language about standing for the anthem (it says “should” not “must”), even though the policy says that players “must” be on the sideline for the anthem.
Chances are that the NFL is working feverishly behind the scenes to get this thing resolved without picking a fight with either Jones or the NFLPA. That solution could be every bit as elusive as finding a broader solution to the anthem controversy.