Jemele Hill Suspended by ESPN After Response to Jerry Jones

“She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet.”

President Trump and his surrogates have criticized the N.F.L. for allowing players to kneel or sit during the playing of the anthem. But Jones’s comments raised the possibility of a showdown between some of its most powerful owners and the players’ union.

Jones’s remarks were the most strident comments yet by an owner in the ongoing debate over the players and their right to protest during the anthem.

Jones, who called the president days after he urged owners to fire players who did not stand for the anthem, has been the most vocal of the 32 owners in saying that his players should stand. After his team lost to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, he went much further.

Jones brushed aside a question about two of his players who raised their fists at the end of the anthem. “But if there is anything that is disrespectful to the flag then we will not play,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “You understand? If we are disrespecting the flag then we won’t play. Period.”

Jones and the entire team took a knee on the field before the anthem on Sept. 25.

The players who have protested by sitting or kneeling during the anthem have insisted that they are not disrespecting the flag or the military, but rather trying to raise awareness of police brutality and racial injustice in the United States.

Jones’s comments were the clearest sign yet that the owners are eager to not only move on from the public-relations crisis, but also to crack down on the players themselves. They may have inadvertently stirred up a more fractious fight with the N.F.L. Players Association. Late Sunday, the union issued a statement that defended its members’ right to free expression.

“It is a source of enormous pride that some of the best conversations about these issues have taken place in our locker rooms in a respectful, civil and thoughtful way that should serve as a model for how all of us can communicate with each other,” the union said. “We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects. That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave.”

The Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross, who has backed the players’ right to protest, appears to be changing his stance. He told The Miami Herald that while many players insist their protests are about raising awareness of social injustice, the president has “changed that whole paradigm of what protest is” by turning it into a proxy for respect for the flag and support of the military.

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