The national anthem protests have put many at odds with each other politically as people come out to either condemn or support their actions.
The Washington Times reports that one ESPN reporter compared Jerry Jones, the owners of the Dallas Cowboys, to a slave owner for threatening to bench any players that protested on his team. Michael Wilbon said, “And the word that comes to my mind – and I don’t care who doesn’t like me using it – is plantation. The players are here to serve me, and they will do what I want. No matter how much I pay them, they are not equal to me. That’s what this says to me and mine.”
The nasty statement comes after Jones announced Sunday that his players would respect the flag or be benched, according to The Dallas News. He told his players, “If there is anything that is disrespectful to the flag then we will not play. You understand? If we are disrespecting the flag then we won’t play.”
According to USA Today, many balked at Jones’s statement to his players claiming it was “unconstitutional.” The NAACP said the NFL needs to react to Jones statement and Vice President Mike Pence’s walkout because it “has an obligation to take a strong stance on behalf of its athletes and their rights.”
Derrick Johnson, interim President and CEO of the NAACP claimed the protests were not disrespectful to the flag as Jones stated, but about raising awareness, “This is not an issue about our flag, this is an issue about police brutality, racism, and the ability of members of the NFL whose communities are disproportionately impacted by police misconduct to peacefully say enough.”
Tony Covington, Senior Director of corporate affairs at the NAACP criticized Jones saying he was violating his players’ rights. “Jerry Jones’ comments are more than tone-deaf, more than misinformed and misguided – they are a public commitment by an NFL owner to violate his players’ constitutional right to free speech – one of the principles on which our nation was founded,” Covington said.
Jones stated the announcement to his players has nothing to do with rights or their political opinions, but how players should behave at work. “I want to do everybody a service, as I should in leading the team, by saying let’s be real clear about what our expectations are, and, so that if anybody asks you or wants to talk about it, then you can say this is where I work and this is the expectation and this what we do where I work.”
What’s interesting about Jones’ decision is that he’s entirely backed up by the NFL’s game operations manual that dictates player conduct on the field. It states: “The national anthem must be played prior to every NFL game and all players must be on the sideline for the national anthem.”
It says very clearly, “During the national anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition.”
ESPN reporter says Jerry Jones proclamation exhibits slave mentality. Is it unconstitutional to compel anthem respect?
Even without following the guidelines, Jones is doing nothing unconstitutional by threatening to bench players who show disrespect during the national anthem. If benched players are still employed by the team, they still receive their paychecks, they’re just not allowed to play.
Like any workplace there is an expectation of professionalism and conduct, showing respect for the flag and the national anthem is part of that. Players are free to have opinions and can demonstrate if they choose to, but they need to be prepared for consequences if they behave inappropriately at work.
After all, playing football is a privilege, not a right.