Jerry Jones loves stars, and there is no bigger star than the President of the United States. This, as much as anything, explains the Cowboys’ owner’s odd comments to the media about the national anthem on Sunday. Jones talked to Donald Trump last month, promising his players would stand for the anthem, and then he said this:
“If there's anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play. Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play.”
Not: “I will always stand for the anthem.”
Not: “I really want my players to stand, and if they don’t, I think that’s disrespectful.”
No. Jones went all-in, saying if any of his Cowboys “disrespect” the anthem, they will be benched. Well, we’ll see about that. If Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott and Demarcus Lawrence all decide to kneel for the anthem next week, will Jones really bench them on principle?
Maybe you think he should. But do you think he would?
When I heard what Jones said Sunday, I thought about the White House. No, not that White House. I thought of the infamous White House of the 1990s, a private home near the Cowboys’ practice facility that became the capital of NFL debauchery. Dallas players rented it so they could do what they want, how they wanted, with whatever ladies they wanted. Those Cowboys teams were known for their winning and off-field excess; Jones loved the winning and didn’t seem to mind the excess a bit.
Jones loves sizzle, and he loves stars—he loves enabling them, coddling them and defending them when others won’t. That is the Jerry Jones we have all watched for the past three decades, and it’s important to keep this in mind as you try to make sense of Jones’s comments.
Trump is a star, and Jones probably wants to please him in the same way he wanted to please Michael Irvin. This is the same owner who signed Greg Hardy despite ample evidence that Hardy abused his ex-girlfriend, and who went further than almost any other owner would in defending Elliott this summer amid his domestic violence allegations.
Jones is not known for his moral stands, and this isn’t a moral stand, either. It may look that way—whether you agree with Jones or not. You may think Jones is fighting for what he believes in, but I’m not buying it. Sure, Jones has his political beliefs, like we all do. He may think everybody should stand for the anthem. But is that really why he said what he did?
At heart he is a charmer, a friendly face, one of the few NFL owners who understands that pro football is entertainment and it’s OK to act like it’s entertainment. After games, win or lose, he stands in the Cowboys’ locker room and talks to the media. You just don’t see that from other owners. But Jones likes the attention, he likes people and he likes being a star. Even his stadium is a star—that is why he built it the way he did.
Jerry Jones has let many things slide so the show could go on. I just don’t think that the anthem protests are what will finally push him over the edge. Remember, last month, Jones kneeled with his players before the anthem, then rose and locked arms with them as it played.
At the time, he was aligning himself with his stars. But Trump has his ear, and let’s face it: It’s an amazing thing for most people when the President of the United States calls you. Jones was enamored of Deion Sanders. How do you think he will feel now?
Jones talks a lot—it’s part of the show—and that also helps explain why he said what he said. Other owners might think it but wouldn’t say it. Jones likes the headlines.
For the rest of the season, Prescott and Elliott and Lawrence should do whatever they feel is right. But if they decide they want to kneel, they should remember: no matter what their owner says, he probably has their back. He always has.