Jones putting reputation at risk
Rare foray into politics may play well locally but could still backfire
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.
Jerry Jones has inserted himself into a contentious public debate.