A reported 22 players took place in the NFL national anthem protests for Week Seven, either by taking a knee during the anthem, raising a fist, sitting in the tunnel, or staying in the locker room for the song’s performance. That number falls significantly below the 200-plus estimated player protests in Week Three after President Donald Trump made his now-infamous comments on the situation.
Still, 22 is too many for the President, who took to Twitter to continue to berate the NFL for its failure to do anything about it.
“Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country. No leadership in NFL!” tweeted Trump.
The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers remain the worst offenders, with eight Seahawks refusing to stand before their matchup with the New York Giants and seven Niners taking a knee as well. Even though the Dallas Cowboys no longer have an issue with player protests, owner Jerry Jones still believes something needs to be done to stop them.
“There is no question the league is suffering negative effects from these protests,” said Jones, unequivocally.
Only one Cowboys player, defensive end David Irving, made any sort of protest; however, he waited until the end of the anthem to raise his fist, as he did a few weeks ago versus the Green Bay Packers. Irving stood with his fist over his heart during the presentation, satisfying Jones’s requirements for his players.
“I know that he was very deliberate during the anthem and, of course, that’s the issue with me,” said Jones on Irving’s protest. “I’m very proud of the way they all handled themselves.”
Like most of the country (according to polls), Irving feels that acting disrespectfully during the anthem is wrong. Instead, he waited until the end to give a brief, but powerful sign of unity with those protesting. He wouldn’t say much about his action, however, noting that people in his position will have their every word dissected, especially on a divisive matter such as this one.
“I wouldn’t want to disrespect the anthem; wait until it’s over,” said Irving. “I’ve been asked that for the past three weeks: my statement is my statement. That was a statement, nothing really to say about it. If you are in a position I am in, or everyone else in this locker room is, you have to watch what you say, play things as smart as you can. I’m not going to speak on this; certain things are better off left unsaid.”
The Niners sideline in that Cowboys game had plenty of players down during the anthem, and the organization doesn’t seem to be anywhere near stepping in to stop their players until the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell mandate such. Jones wouldn’t comment on the 49ers after the Cowboys 40-10 victory, but he did hint that the NFL needs to be more powerful in the way it handles situations like this.
“My interest is how the Cowboys are conducting themselves as players both on and off, again I just can’t tell you how proud I am of the players,” said Jones. “Our ability to be substantive is based on having a strong NFL, a league that people are really interested in and want to watch and want to watch the games. At all times, if I am anything, I am first and foremost a proponent of making the NFL strong. Making us have as many people watching the game as we can and watching in light of what we are doing and that’s playing football. If all this makes you stronger to represent messages, let’s don’t do it in a way that tears down the strength of the NFL.”
I do think it’s a little ironic that Jones is asking for the NFL to assume more power in the midst of everything going on with running back Ezekiel Elliott, but with this matter affecting the league as a whole, his request makes sense.
The NFL is starting to actively address the issue, holding a meeting last week with players at the center of the debate and select NFL owners so each side could hear the other out. No rules against the protests were put in place, and not all the players who participated decided to stand this weekend, but the meeting is, at the least, a step in the right direction.
That step, evidently, isn’t enough for Jones or Trump. Jones wants to prevent the viewership erosion and financial bleeding of the league, and the President wants to make a strong stance on a social issue that the majority of Americans agree with him on. Neither will be satisfied until every single player is on their feet.