ARLINGTON, Texas – The debate surrounding the NFL and the national anthem took another turn on Sunday evening, and Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones made his stance on the matter perfectly clear.
"If there's anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play," Jones told reporters after the Cowboys' 35-31 loss to Green Bay. "Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won't play. Period."
Pressed for clarification if he meant that players seen as disrespecting the flag would not play, Jones affirmed his stance.
"Period. Yes, of course," he said.
Jones was questioned about the ever-present debate about the national anthem as a result of two different situations in the NFL on Sunday. Firstly, Vice President Mike Pence claimed that he'd left the Indianapolis Colts' afternoon game against the San Francisco 49ers because players had knelt during the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner."
"Our vice president of the United States -- if in his opinion, there's disrespect of the flag then he should," Jones said. "He basically should – if in his opinion -- express himself however he wants to say. He's got rights, too."
More directly related to the Cowboys were the actions of defensive linemen David Irving and Damontre' Moore. The Cowboys' full roster stood for the playing of the national anthem on Sunday, as has been the case all season. But in the closing moments of the song, both Irving and Moore raised their fists in the air.
That gesture has typically been seen as a sign meant to raise awareness of racial injustice, and players around the NFL have done it as a showing of solidarity with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his original protest.
Asked about it following the game, Moore was reluctant to elaborate much on the gesture.
"Sometimes some things are better left unsaid," he said. "At the end of the day, Kap did what he did. I do what I do. Everyone else does what they do from Point A to Point Z in the league. I think everyone forgets about that."
For his part, Jones said he hadn't noticed that his players made the gesture during the pregame festivities. But he was adamant that he would not tolerate disrespect of the American flag or the national anthem.
"We're going to respect the flag, and I'm going to create the perception of it. And we have," Jones said. "I'm not aware and wouldn't know what you're talking about. I'm not aware of that. If you say so you saw it."
Whether or not Irving and Moore's gestures were disrespectful is open to interpretation, as the players themselves argued.
"My dad is a master sergeant, he's a Marine, and I know what he thinks. He's OK with it, as most marines I speak to are," Irving said. "My brothers are in the Marines, they don't think it's disrespecting the flag."
Regardless, it seems likely that the gesture – and Jones' stance on players disrespecting the flag or the anthem – will be hot topics of conversation as the Cowboys head into the bye week.
But in an argument that has become muddled over the past year, Jones made himself perfectly clear.
"We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues," he said. "But there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. So we're clear."