There’s an interesting theory by Rick Gosselin from The Dallas Morning News on why Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made his edict on National Anthem protests. Goose, as he’s called here in North Texas, believes Jones is trying to be the bad guy, so he can protect the Dallas Cowboys brand.
Jerry Jones and the other NFL owners are, first and foremost, businessmen. Their business is making money. They’ve made that money in oil and cars and construction and real estate. They also make money in football. NFL owners wouldn’t have paid hundreds of millions of dollars for these franchises if they were money pits…
The protests have become a front burner issue — and will remain one as long as players are kneeling and fists are being raised. It’s in the NFL’s best interest to make the game the focus, not the pregame. And that’s what Jones is trying to do. Blame me, he’s telling his players. When you don’t stand for the anthem, blame me. When you don’t raise your fist, blame me. Let’s get everyone’s mind back on football, he’s saying.
It’s a smart theory, especially because Jones is one of the savviest businessmen in the NFL. He took a team which was losing millions of dollars in 1989 and turned it into the over $4B juggernaut it is today (regardless of playoff success or not). Jones isn’t the kind of owner to back down from pressure unless it really starts hurting his pocket, as evidenced by mostly giving control of the team on the field to Bill Parcells in 2003. The Cowboys weren’t successful and fans were starting to tune out and focus on more successful North Texas organizations like the Mavs and Stars. So Jones decided to surrender some control to show fans he was serious about winning. It was a calculated risk, and the humongous JerryWorld in Arlington proves it was a success.
Jones sees the protests as a distraction and his attempt to find a middle ground by kneeling before the anthem, then standing for it, failed. That was pretty unfortunate because the original plan was a good idea. The fact that it got almost everyone mad proves it. Just like the Steelers deciding to stay in the locker room for the anthem unfortunately failed, because no one really wants a middle ground. The sides are so dug in that the NFL and players are being forced to pick one or the other. You either stand for the anthem or you’re seen as un-American. You either protest or you’re seen as a racist or someone who doesn’t care about the community. It’s a ridiculous juxtaposition.
Let’s remember: these protests had nothing to do with the anthem or the flag itself. Colin Kaepernick was protesting what he saw as injustice by the police against the black community. His choice may have been the wrong decision, much like his choice of socks and T-shirts, but he was trying to raise awareness about an issue, much like NBA players have, and anyone who looks at the relationship between Bay Area cops and the community can see there are problems. The sad thing is, Kaepernick’s protest went from being one about police-community relations to one of respect for country. This is why Dez Bryant’s idea of being a positive role model in the community is a better way to go.
It’s still curious why the NFL requires players to be on the field for the anthem. It wasn’t a requirement until maybe the late 1990’s, and perhaps changing the rule is the best way to go. Let individual teams decide whether they want to be on the field for the anthem and go from there. Perhaps the NFL is requiring teams to be on the field because 14 teams got cash from the Pentagon for salutes to the military. It’s possible this is another example of cronyism which plagues this country: we’ll stand for the flag if you give us cash, and we’ll make sure our players do too. That’s pretty specious, if it’s true, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
I don’t particularly care one way or the other if players are kneeling or holding up a fist during the anthem. It’s disrespectful, for sure, but it’s their choice. One could argue Dallas Stars fans are disrespecting the anthem by yelling “STARS!” twice during the song, when it plays before hockey games. But it’s a personal choice and doesn’t change how much fans love their country.
A possible solution between the NFL and the players’ union will probably be reached in the next month or so. Whether it’s one which satisfies those screaming the loudest is anyone’s guess.