For months, the alternative facts of the Donald Trump Administration have been parsed, catalogued and dissected, with seemingly all manner of political statements subject to a debate over accuracy. But at least one declaration has passed into legitimacy.
President Trump told the truth about Jerry Jones. And ever since, America’s Team has become the political property of Team America.
In September, Trump said the Dallas Cowboys owner would find a way to halt protests when it came time for his team to honor the American flag on a football field. And on Sunday night, Jones affirmed it, drawing a political line down the middle of his locker room and essentially threatening the job and livelihood of any Cowboys player who would dare cross it.
Whether intended or not, the Big “D” in Dallas and the Big “D” in the White House are in perfect alignment. And just like that, they became Donald Trump’s team. His shining beacon. The political chip he will play over and over again on Sundays. That’s what Jerry Jones invited. He took Trump’s declarations on striking down “son of a bitch” anthem-kneelers and backed it up with his own franchise.
“If there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play,” Jones said Sunday night, after being told that Cowboys Damontre’ Moore and David Irving had each raised a fist following the national anthem. “OK? Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period. … There is no room here – if it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you’re disrespecting the flag, we will be non-supportive of each other. We will not disrespect the flag.”
Will that compass get ripped as being hypocritical? Undoubtedly. That’s what happens when a team roster has occasionally been a weigh station for a woman batterer, drunk drivers, drug abusers, a man convicted of manslaughter and more. All manner of flawed personalities that Jones has defended in the past. But a man taking a knee? Unacceptable.
Jones would rather not play than play with a guy who takes a knee during the national anthem. Those words might as well have been written by Trump, who has repeatedly said NFL players should be forced to stand for the flag and national anthem or be fired.
Trump continued to bang that drum Monday evening, tweeting:
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!"
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
Lest we forget, while Trump was blasting that message out, he repeatedly referenced his NFL owner friends and how they agreed with him – but lacked the fortitude to make the statement. Either Jones heard that rallying cry or he folded to the multiple calls that Trump placed to him in recent weeks.
Either way, Trump said Jones would step up for the cause. And now Jones has legitimized that claim.
As he tweeted on Sept. 27, “Spoke to Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys yesterday. Jerry is a winner who knows how to get things done. Players will stand for country!”
Trump was right. Dallas players have. And maybe we know part of the reason. The fake Jerry Jones meme that became so popular last year – in which he supposedly threatened to fire players who kneeled during the anthem – is suddenly very accurate. That’s funny considering so many people in the Dallas organization insisted that meme was rubbish.
Apparently something changed because the rubbish has become reality.
It’s Jones’ prerogative. It’s his team. The players are his employees. And barring a massive fistfight with the players union over freedom of speech, he can go ahead and suspend whoever he wants over the anthem protests. At the end of the day, it’s his bottom line that he has to worry about.
In the final analysis, some will call Jones strong for standing up for something he believes is being sullied – even if the players who would protest would say their message is being warped and manipulated. Others will say Jones is being oppressive and trampling on a constitutional right, even if it’s a workplace and Jones can set whatever behavioral guidelines he deems appropriate.
Whichever viewpoint is embraced, there’s no denying one thing: Jones and the Cowboys will now be adopted by Trump and his administration as the shining example of what an NFL team and its players should do – regardless of any on the team who would disagree. And that puts players in an extremely awkward spot. It invites political division inside the roster.
Even now, some are opining that Jones’ anthem demand could be obliterated by two knees: Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Surely he couldn’t follow through with his declaration if one of his two superstars decided they weren’t going to follow along. Undoubtedly, that’s an unfair expectation of either player – both of whom have a multitude of reasons to be more loyal to Jones than almost any other person or social cause.
But that’s a perfect example of why Jones’ stance – either publicly or privately – is so corrosive. Not only does it invite politics right into the heart of an organization, but it puts the onus on the players to either defy ownership or have a litany of opinions formed about them. None of which takes into account what it does inside the organization, where some are likely thrilled with Jones and Trump, and others feel like their voice is being extinguished or their social activism efforts trampled.
There’s one certainty in all of this: it’s going to get only bigger for the Cowboys. If they weren’t already there, they are locked in as the adopted shining example of the Trump administration helping to bring change and Make America Great Again.
As far as Trump is concerned, America’s Team put on the red campaign hat this week. And Jones did the one thing that is sure to draw effusive praise, tweets and applause from the commander-in-chief.
Jerry Jones made Donald Trump truthful. He made him right. That’s not something this president will ever let escape his grasp. And now, neither will the Cowboys.
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