All eyes were on the marquee match-up at Jerryworld. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers came rolling into the Metroplex, and you would think he owned the place, considering recent history. The hype was featured as a revenge game for last year's playoff ouster. In an impressive showing by Dak Prescott, Dallas' clock management issues reared their ugly face once again. The glitch in the Matrix appeared where it always does, and Rodgers drove down the field like he was playing Madden on Rookie difficulty.
It was a hard fought game that saw the defense crumble in the hands of #12 like a bag of Ruffles. In an unexpected plot twist, the biggest headline came out of the post-game commentary.
After teasing that he was at least interested in the plight of those protesting before the Cardinals-Cowboys matchup, Jones came out with the strongest comments to date regarding a player peacefully protesting during the national anthem, saying that anyone caught "disrespecting the flag will sit".
It was a message to his players. Hey #'s 1-53, FALL IN LINE OR ELSE.
It can be understood why, as his comments spread throughout social media, Jones has been portrayed as doing an about-face on the situation.
Jones has a knack for getting his own way due to his likeability anyway, so the forceful edict came as a surprise and sent shockwaves through the league.
This comes out as a very "do this or else" like move for someone that has usually played it very coy. On that Monday night in Glendale, Jones could be seen calling to the cameramen to make sure they got him in the shot. When the entire team kneeled before the anthem was played, the demonstration was seen as a compromise that showed respect to the importance of the social issues the players were making a statement on while ensuring that the fact that no Cowboy had yet to kneel would continue, a fact that is still true to date.
Jones got his wish and still showed solidarity with his players. Was it a P.R ploy? An olive branch to show his players/ fan base he emphasizes with the struggles seen by victims of racial injustice? Probably a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.
Colin Kaepernick started the debate when began to sit out the national anthem during the 2016 season to protest racial injustices seen in the United States. It has slowly been morphed into a debate as to whether the player's actions are considered disrespectful to the Military and the nation as a whole. Do you all remember reading the George Orwell book "1984" in school? A line that always stayed in my mind sums it all up. “First they steal the words, then they steal the meaning".
While they may not be the financial core of the team's fan base, Jones is risking alienating a demographic that will affect the perception of "America's team", which so far has been inclusive and apolitical regardless of which "side" one may be on.
Was this Jones' feelings all along? Was the hope that the solidarity shown in Arizona would be a "one and done" and the issue would blow over and business as usual could continue? Was there pressure from the constant tweets from the president in regards to the protests?
Alas, we can't know for sure what drove this luxury bus from the stop in suburban Phoenix to Cowboys Stadium after the loss to Green Bay on this since we aren't in the brain of the billionaire owner. We can only go by what he provides us, and we have to take his latest at his word. Any Cowboys player seen kneeling during the national anthem will be considered "disrespecting the flag" and won't play in the game. Jones has an enviable poker face, but he wouldn't come out publicly with these comments if he didn't mean to enforce them.
It has long been obvious that Jones cares deeply about his players and goes out of his way to stand by their side when they run into personal issues. Will he do so for social issues that are important to them as well?
What happens if Dez kneels? Or Dak? For the sake of the same freedom that is being argued over on both sides (and saw the Vice President of the Unites States walk out of an NFL stadium while the anthem played last week), one can only hope that an irreplaceable player that feels like they want to express their right to peacefully protest will do so, for the sake of their like-minded peer that may be on the cut bubble and is fearful of losing their job for using their platform, and for those without a voice entirely.
You can find Irvin on Twitter @twittirv if you would like to (peacefully) discuss this topic with him. Be nice on the Internet!