By Tony Massarotti
Ironic, isn’t it? By standing for the national anthem this week, members of the Dallas Cowboys will effectively kneel before owner Jerry Jones.
Talk about a no-win situation.
Admit it: regardless of your stance on the national anthem, NFL players, Donald Trump and NFL owners, part of you would just love to see members of the Cowboys kneel for the national anthem the next time they take the field. On Sunday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated that he would bench any player who chose to kneel for the anthem, though we should point out — conveniently — that the Cowboys happen to be on a bye this week.
That Jerry Jones is no fool. He knows he is antagonizing some of his players. He also knows that the Cowboys will have nearly two weeks to cool off before they take the field again at San Francisco on October 22, which would help prevent any of them from making an emotional, reactionary decision in the wake of threats from their megalomaniacal owner.
If you really had guts, Jerry, you’d walk into the locker room right before a game — instead of doing it in a media interview two weeks before your next game — and make the same threat: any player who kneels for the anthem would be benched. But then, you’d have to hold your breath with your hand over your heart, waiting to see if Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant (among others) decided to collectively spit in your face.
Is what Jones is doing legal? Well, we’re about to find out. It is his team, after all. He can demand what he wants of his employees. But in a nation currently filled with so much bluster that talk-show hosts now look to be among the most reasonable folks, Jones is pandering to his constituency every bit as much as Trump is. Just last week, Dannon dropped Cam Newton over condescending comments he made to a female member of the Carolina Panthers press corps. Who’s to say Jones isn’t getting the same kind of pressure from his fans, sponsors and/or business partners, particularly in a state as red as ketchup.
Money makes the world go `round, after all, and Jerry Jones is, at his core, a businessman.
Will Cowboys players rebel? That feels unlikely, though one never knows. At the moment, Dallas is one of biggest underachievers in football, having already lost as many games (three) as it did during all of last season. Dallas has allowed 112 points in its three losses and a stunning 132 points overall, the latter of which places the Cowboys 29th in the NFL (and last in the NFC) in scoring defense. If Dallas hasn’t been kneeling for the anthem, the Cowboys have certainly knelt for the opposing offense.
But again, Jones has timed his stand carefully. Next up for Dallas: the dreadful San Francisco 49ers.
By then, naturally, there is likely to have been some discussion and understanding between Jones and his employees, who are a collective 2-4 since improving to 13-2 late last season. Dallas has now lost at home to the Green Bay Packers twice during that span, both defeats to Green Bay coming almost entirely as the result of its inability to stop Aaron Rodgers.
In the end, maybe that’s why Jones doesn’t want his players kneeling in Week 7. Maybe he wants his players to focus on football.
Because when you get right down to it, Jones is probably less worried about his players kneeling and far more concerned about them rolling over.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.