GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hours after Dallas Cowboys players and coaches took a knee prior to the national anthem and locked arms during it, owner Jerry Jones called it “a statement about unity and...equality.”
Jones, who has been outspoken about his feeling that the national anthem should be reserved for respect of the flag, was on a knee with his players before the singing of the national anthem. The entire team -- and the Cardinals, too -- was standing when Jordin Sparks sang the Star-Spangled Banner.
“The reason I’m particularly proud of this team and the coaches that coach them is because we all agreed that our players wanted to make a statement about unity and we wanted to make a statement about equality,” Jones said.
“They were very much aware that that statement, when made or attempted to be made in and a part of the recognition of our flag, can not only lead to criticism, but also controversy.”
The#Cowboys knelt, briefly, before the anthem. Then rose again, for the playing of the anthem. pic.twitter.com/fBmgaCzL9U— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) September 26, 2017
The Cowboys and Cardinals became the 29th and 30th NFL teams to stage some sort of protest or display during the national anthem. The unprecedented, league-wide response came after President Trump over the weekend blasted NFL players who protest during the anthem.
Trump said players who protest should be “suspended or fired,” and called them “sons of b*tches” in comments made during an Alabama rally and posted to Twitter.
The Cowboys’ leadership council, a group of veteran players, met and decided on what they called a “unified statement” to be made Monday. Before Monday’s game, no Cowboys player had staged a protest during the anthem.
“I can’t say enough about the understanding and the awareness of our team and these young men that basically said, ‘That makes sense. There’s no need for us to talk about unity and equality and have 60 percent of this country mad at you because you’re not perceived to be honoring the flag,'" Jones said. "This was a way to do both.”
The only NFL teams not to take part in some form of protest during the anthem were the 49ers and Rams, who played Thursday night, before Trump made his comments.
When asked if he had any response to Trump’s comments, he said “I want our actions to be louder than words.”
Jones said the Cowboys made the NFL aware of their plans before Monday night’s game.
The public address announcer at University of Phoenix Stadium informed the crowd of the Cardinals’ plan as it unfolded.
"Our players, owners and coaches will now meet in the south end zone and lock arms in a sign of unity," he said.
"Fans, we honor our nation's flag and the men and women of our armed forces who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms. We invite you to unite as well, and do the same with your fellow fans, regardless of jersey color."