The Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals displayed unity Monday night before their game in an expression of displeasure with the recent comments made by President Donald Trump.
As the Cardinals were introduced, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, as well as executive vice presidents Stephen Jones, Charlotte Anderson and Jerry Jones Jr., stood locked arm in arm with the players, coaches and staff.
Before a giant American flag was unfurled that covered almost the entire field, the Cowboys took a knee briefly as a group, including Jerry Jones, which led to a smattering of boos from the crowd that included a large number of Dallas fans.
During the national anthem, the Cowboys stood locked arm in arm but nobody took a knee or appeared to have any sign of silent protest.
The Cardinals lined up along the goal line of the southern end zone as Jordin Sparks sang the national anthem behind them. Some players linked arms. Some put their hands on the shoulders of teammates. Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker and tight end Ifeanyi Momah kept their helmets on. Among the players, coach and staff who lined up were team president Michael Bidwill, who locked arms with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Patrick Peterson. Fitzgerald locked arms with coach Bruce Arians on the other side. Bidwill’s sister, Nicole, and brother, Tim, as well as general manager Steve Keim were also standing with the players.
On Sunday, every team playing had some form of demonstration as a response to President Trump saying owners should fire the players who disrespect the flag by not standing during the national anthem. Hundreds of players, coaches, executives and owners stood together arm in arm, sat, knelt, raised a fist or stayed in the locker room during the national anthem.
Leading up to Monday’s game, there was much internal debate among the Cowboys and Cardinals and even between the two teams.
Peterson told ESPN’s Lisa Salters that when he woke up on Saturday morning and heard about President Trump’s comments, he and another teammate went to Arians and asked if players could do something in response before Monday night’s game.
That started a series of conversations with the Cowboys — including Fitzgerald reaching out to Dallas tight end Jason Witten — to discuss a possible joint show of unity.
Those conversations continued throughout the day Monday, but ultimately the decision was made that there would be no joint team response.
Jerry Jones and his daughter, Charlotte Jones Anderson, said their players wanted to take a knee as a statement for equality and unity, but also wanted to separate that message from the national anthem.
As Arians entered University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday, he wore a handwritten note of support around his neck that read “Love!! Not Hate!!”
A little less than an hour before kickoff, Jerry Jones said he respected the players “individually and collectively,” but he did not want to get into the political element of the debate.
In the past, he has said he liked how the Cowboys had handled the national anthem. Before Monday, since the silent protests started a year ago with Colin Kaepernick drawing the most attention, the entire Cowboys’ roster stood in a row along the sideline.
It’s not clear whether Jones met with the players before kickoff. As of an hour before kickoff he said he hadn’t but he also indicated it could still happen.
Jones was one of seven NFL owners to donate to Trump’s inauguration. So far the Cowboys have not released a statement on Jones’ behalf, however, the NFL, the NFL Players Association and a number of teams and executives across the league issued statements calling Trump’s comments, “divisive.”
“We want them to do what’s in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said. “That’s where the obligation is and again I don’t want to get into this area of debate but I do want to emphasize how important it is to me that we respect the sanctity of the flag.”