LOS ANGELES – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Wednesday his players would be expected to stand for the US national anthem this season but described President Donald Trump's frequent interventions on the subject as “problematic.”
Speaking as the Cowboys opened their training camp in Oxnard, California, Jones said the team had a policy to stand during renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“Obviously I wouldn't dare speak for any of the other owners, but as far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned, you know where I stand and our team knows where I stand on the issue,” Jones told reporters.
“Our policy is that you stand for the anthem, toe on the line.”
The National Football League and the NFL Players Association last week said they had reached a “standstill agreement” on the anthem issue, declaring that no new rules would be put in place while confidential talks were ongoing.
Protests in which players kneeled during the anthem - first launched by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to highlight racial and social injustices - put America's most popular sport at the centre of a political firestorm last year.
This came after Trump described players who took part as “sons of bitches” who were insulting the flag, the US military and the nation.
The remarks prompted a wave of kneeling protests across the league last September, angering some fans and placing several conservative, Trump-supporting team owners in an awkward position as NFL television ratings dropped.
In an attempt to defuse the issue ahead of the 2018 season, the NFL in May announced a new policy which required players on the field to stand for the anthem. However players had the option of remaining in the locker room.
The NFL backed away from that position last week however following a challenge from the players union.
Some team owners had already said they would not punish players who protested.
That in turn prompted Trump to return to the subject on Twitter, calling for players who did not stand for the anthem to be suspended without pay.
“The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again - can't believe it!” Trump tweeted last Friday.
“Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!” he wrote.
Jones said Trump's involvement in the issue had given the league a headache.
“Yes, his interest in what we're doing is problematic,” Jones said.
“Unprecedented if you really think about it. Like the very game itself, that's the way it is and we'll deal with it. Everybody would like for it to go away.”
Agence France-Presse (AFP)