Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Wednesday said the team’s players will be required to stand on the sidelines for the national anthem this season, days after the NFL said it would freeze a new policy on the polarizing issue amid ongoing negotiations with the players union.
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“Our policy is you stand during the anthem, toe on the line,” Jones said Wednesday during a team press conference.
Starting before the 2016 season, dozens of NFL players have knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. The debate over the policy intensified last season after President Donald Trump said players were disrespecting the American flag and called on league owners to fire anyone who did not stand for the anthem.
The NFL announced a new policy this offseason that would have required players to either stand at attention on the sideline during the national anthem or wait in the locker room. However, the league opted to table the policy after public criticism and the publication of a report that said the Miami Dolphins would consider suspending players who protested during the anthem.
"The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue," the two entities said in a joint statement. "In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA's grievance and on the NFL's anthem policy.”
It’s unclear if the NFL will have a new policy in place before the start of the 2018 season.
Jones, who has maintained a dialogue with Trump throughout the debate over the league’s anthem policy, was critical of the president’s public remarks on the issue.
"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.”
Jones engaged in a lengthy battle with the NFL league office last season over a proposed contract extension for Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Cowboys owner briefly threatened to sue the NFL’s compensation committee, arguing that it had misled owners on the deal’s terms.
Goodell eventually signed a five-year deal to remain in his position. The NFL purportedly demanded that Jones cover more than $2 million in legal fees related to his threatened lawsuit and other litigation.