Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn’t want any pesky dissent during the playing of the national anthem. He clearly defined his (which also serves as the organization’s, like it or not) stance earlier this week.
“Our policy is you stand during the anthem, toe on the line,” he said.
It’s wasn’t surprising to hear Jones come down like this. His political leanings are well known. Last year he said any player who “disrespects” the flag won’t be afforded playing time. What was a bit surprising was the “both sides” concession Jones offered on the situation, the part where he was mildly critical of his friend, President Donald Trump.
“His interest in what we’re doing is problematic, from my chair, and I would say in general the owners’ chair,” Jones said. “It’s unprecedented, if you really think about it. But like the very game itself, that’s the way it is and we’ll deal with it.”
This is an astute observation. The impact of this controversy has been negative for the NFL. Your mileage will vary on how negative and significant. But political foes can find middle ground in admitting that Trump has been the one person most responsible for keeping the fire going. He can always be counted on to give it more oxygen when it’s nearing smoldering ember stage.
Jones saying so out loud was a small concession. If it was an open plea to get Trump to lay off a bit, it was a waste of breath from the start. Jones has to know his buddy won’t ever take his foot off the gas.
This morning, Trump made sure to strap the Cowboys owner into the passenger seat for the ride through public opinion.
Trump either didn’t read the part about his meddling or totally ignored it. Again, no surprise there.
The selective reading and social media boost does three things. First, it makes Jones look weak and Trump look strong. Secondly, it ensures that Jones is firmly boxed in with Team Trump, regardless of any nuanced dissent on the smaller aspects. And finally, it makes it even harder for Jones to tell the president to lay off.
Jones was bulldozed, and it will take some digging to regain his own ground. Millions will see Trump’s tweet and assume he and Jones are in lockstep on the anthem issue when, in reality, it helps one man and hurts the other.
Why? Because no one ever does the reading.