Jones putting rep­u­ta­tion at risk

Rare foray into pol­i­tics may play well lo­cally but could still back­fire

The Dallas Morning News - - Sportsday - Twit­ter: @DavidMoore­DMN

Jerry Jones has built a lu­cra­tive em­pire by ju­di­ciously fol­low­ing an apo­lit­i­cal path.

That makes the owner’s will­ing­ness to plunge him­self into the heart of a con­tentious pub­lic de­bate all the more sur- pris­ing. It’s naïve to be­lieve Jones or the Cow­boys will emerge un­scathed.

If any of his play­ers refuse to stand for the na­tional an­them, Jones will make sure they will sit for the game. The Cow­boys owner has not only dou­bled down since mak­ing those com­ments Sun­day eve- ning, he’s tripled down. Not a day has gone by that Jones hasn’t spo­ken about the con­se­quences of dis­re­spect­ing the flag, what he be­lieves the NFL must do go­ing for­ward and his friend­ship with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Why choose now, a few days be­fore his 75th birth­day, to dive into these ide­o­log­i­cal wa­ters? Why does he openly align him­self with a di­vi­sive pres­i­dent — of all the words used to de­scribe Jones through the decades, di­vi­sive has never been one of them — whose ap­proval rat­ings are in steady de­cline?

Jones clearly has a feel for the ma­jor­ity of his con­sumer base. He knows where his clients and big­gest advertisin­g part­ners stand on this is­sue.

But does he truly un­der­stand the depth of the emo­tion on the other side? Does he care?

All Amer­i­cans should stand for the an­them — that’s a gen­uinely held be­lief of Jones. But it’s im­plau­si­ble to think he would jump to the fore­front of this is­sue if he didn’t have sup­port.

The league’s 32 own­ers will gather in New York next week for a quar­terly meet­ing. If Jones hasn’t can­vassed the room to know who’s in his cor­ner, well, he wouldn’t be Jerry Jones. His state­ments in­di­cate there’s a move­ment un­der­way to al­ter the cur­rent pol­icy that sim­ply states play­ers “should stand’’ for the an­them and give it more teeth.

He’s also em­bold­ened by the re­la­tion­ships he’s formed with his own play­ers and the fact that few, if any, are overtly po­lit­i­cal.

Think about the lead­ers and high-pro­file play­ers on this Cow­boys team. Now, ask your­self which ones are most likely to kneel?

Quar­ter­back Dak Prescott? Not at this stage of his ca­reer.

Ezekiel El­liott? The run­ning back has other con­cerns as he awaits a rul­ing from the Fifth Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in New Or­leans.

Tight end Ja­son Wit­ten and line­backer Sean Lee? That won’t hap­pen.

Re­ceiver Dez Bryant? He’s some­thing of a wild card on this is­sue given past state­ments. But does he want to strike out on his own here with an is­sue he’s strug­gled to ar­tic­u­late pub­licly?

Jones knows this. He knows none of his play­ers have knelt for the an­them since a smat­ter­ing of play­ers around the league be­gan to do so last sea­son. That al­lows him to is­sue his hard-line procla­ma­tion with con­fi­dence.

But this is a hand Jones can over­play. Yes, the play­ers like him. They re­spect him and know he has their backs. Jones con­sid­ers his re­la­tion­ship with his play­ers “be­yond re­proach’’ and de­clares no one can claim he’s not sup­port­ive of them and their is­sues.

All he asks in re­turn is that they stand for the an­them.

While that sounds rea­son­able to Jones, it comes across as im­pe­ri­ous to oth­ers. Dal­las County Com­mis­sioner John Wi­ley Price said Tues­day that Jones is­sued an or­der that says, “Slaves, obey your master.’’

No one who knows Jones be­lieves him to be a racist. But as the owner of a fran­chise worth an es­ti­mated $4.2 bil­lion, he’s clearly a ben­e­fi­ciary of white priv­i­lege.

This is how it will play in so­cial me­dia and else­where. This is why the Rev. Jesse Jack­son, the NAACP and a lo­cal la­bor union all weighed in on Tues­day in ad­di­tion to Price.

There will likely be a line of cur­rent and former play­ers come out in the en­su­ing days and weeks to say Jones isn’t racist. But the fact it’s now part of the con­ver­sa­tion has to sting a man who takes great pride in treat­ing ev­ery­one equally.

When Jones ar­gues con­se­quences must be in place so play­ers won’t suc­cumb to pres­sure and kneel for the an­them, when he talks about giv­ing the play­ers am­mu­ni­tion to com­bat that pres­sure, he doesn’t come across as un­der­stand­ing. He comes across as an owner who be­lieves he’s pur­chased the si­lence of the play­ers and wants to re­mind them of it pub­licly.

Jones is your friend. He’s sym­pa­thetic to the pres­sure you’re un­der and sim­ply wants to pro­tect you. He has your best in­ter­ests at heart.

Is that the mes­sage fam­i­lies and friends will whis­per in the ears of the Cow­boys play­ers? The owner’s mes­sage rings loud­est now with his play­ers, but will it over time?

Jones will tell you the at­tempt here is to in­su­late his play­ers from this de­bate. He says he’s do­ing “ev­ery­body a ser­vice’’ by lead­ing this charge.

That doesn’t make sense. Jones has put him­self and the Cow­boys at the epi­cen­ter of an ugly par­ti­san di­vide.

How can any­one be­lieve he and the Cow­boys won’t suf­fer in­juries?

Catch David Moore and Robert Wilonsky as they co-host In­ten­tional Ground­ing on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) ev­ery Wed­nes­day from 7-8 p.m. through the Su­per Bowl.

DAVID MOORE [email protected]­las­news.com

Fort Worth Star-Tele­gram

Jerry Jones has in­serted him­self into a con­tentious pub­lic de­bate.

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