Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones met with players for the first time since his recent comments about benching those who protest during the national anthem.
Afterwards, the locker room — which usually has several players talking to reporters — only had a handful of players Thursday. Things seemed tense when they were asked about the meeting with Jones.
The most high-profile Cowboys — quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, tight end Jason Witten and receiver Dez Bryant— were all on the practice field but avoided reporters.
Cowboys Defensive End David Irving confirmed that Jones was part of the meeting early Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Coach Jason Garrett held a meeting with his players as well. None of the players would get into detail about what the meetings entailed. Only three players talked with reporters.
As reporters were entering the locker room, Cornerback Orlando Scandrick was blasting a song by YG & Nipsey Hussle that is very critical of President Donald Trump. But then when it came time to speak with reporters, he either was told not to get into detail on the anthem issue or chose not to address it.
“No comment,” he said.
After Sunday's game, Jones warned any player who does not stand for the anthem will sit for the game. Up to this point, no Cowboys have done anything other than stand for the anthem. David Irving and Moore raised their fists this past weekend. Irving would not say whether he will demonstrate in the future.
Kicker Dan Bailey is the team's union player representative. He spoke cautiously about the issue and tried to navigate through it.
“I don't think you can ever bring a group of people together and collectively agree. I think there's always going to be people that have different opinions, different beliefs,” he said. “I think the main focus is to just establish a baseline where you can come together and agree on something in principle. It doesn't mean that your individual views are right or wrong. Like I said, when you come in this door, we're working towards something as a team. I think that's the main focus.”
Jones' ultimatum prompted Wade Rathke, the chief organizer of Local 100 of the United Labor Unions, to file a charge against the Cowboys owner on Tuesday. He claims Jones’ stance is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, which offers certain protections to private-sector workers — in this case, players — while on the job.
“They have the right to act together,” Rathke said. “Now, if it was one lone person of all the players in the NFL, then that's not concerted activity. But once you get two or more, that's concerted activity.”
Employment and labor lawyer Amy Davis, who is not involved in the complaint, says the labor union may have a case, citing the NFL's current game manual.
“What the manual says is they should stand not that a requirement,” Davis said. “And what Jerry Jones is doing is saying, ‘No, it is a requirement.’”
Some legal experts also believe the NFL could face a first amendment lawsuit for punishing players who take a knee if the stadium they play in was funded with taxpayer money, which AT&T Stadium was. Davis disagrees with that argument.
“I don't think it's correct. I don't think it's a constitutional issue, I think it's a contract issue,” she said. “And the fact that they're playing in stadiums paid for by public dollars, in some part, doesn't transform the owners from a private entity to a public entity.”
Rathke says a field agent with the Fort Worth office of the National Labor Relations Board will investigate the charge and is talking to Jones and Cowboys management. The agent will determine if there is enough evidence to move forward with a charge against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys will head to the West Coast to play the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 22 after the bye week.