Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters Wednesday he expects his team to display "grace" as it relates to the national anthem during games this season.
Jones' comments came during his first news conference since George Floyd's murder while in Minneapolis police custody in May and the ensuing protests against racial injustice and police brutality throughout the nation.
A number of players have announced in the past few months they would kneel during the anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
On multiple occasions in the past, Jones has publicly stated his stance on kneeling during the anthem. During the 2017 season, he said that any Cowboys player who he perceived as being "disrespectful to the flag" would not play. In 2018, he told reporters that the team's policy to stand for the anthem was to "toe on the line."
Jones was asked Wednesday what his policy will be this season.
"I have nothing to prove as far as where I'm standing with the flag and where the Cowboys stand," Jones said. "I have nothing to prove regarding my players and my support of our players. What I do want to show and want us all to be a part of is a word called 'grace'. Grace. Not only grace in our actions, but grace in our understanding, where they're coming from. I want our players to understand the perception and where they're coming from regarding the flag and the sensitivity there and the many memories there. And I want our fans to understand, and better do, because of what's gone on over the last few months. I want them to understand where our players are coming from there, and they do not feel like that the ones that want to basically do that, kneel, they do not feel like they're dishonoring the flag. I'm going to have grace. I've had grace.
"Many of you have written and criticized me for having too much grace and understanding regarding our players, and I probably have. And I'm going to have grace regarding the people that are sensitive about our flag. Somewhere in-between there as the weeks, as we get together with our team, as we discuss with the team, somewhere in-between there is how we're going to handle it."
Jones discussed how the Cowboys as a team kneeled prior to the national anthem during a prime-time game in 2017, and how he was proud of quarterback Dak Prescott for his letter to the governor of Oklahoma to overturn the conviction of and release Julius Jones, a Black man, on death row for murder.
"We had many, many examples that we could present and programs about where we stand regarding social justice at that time," Jones said. "That was then and that's how we reacted then. I'm so proud of Dak, the other day, he made a plea to the governor of Oklahoma, those are the active aspects of being to address and help the issue of social justice. I'm so proud for the Cowboys and proud of Dak for taking that stance."
Jones, who has endured criticism this offseason for not publicly commenting in the aftermath of Floyd's murder, was asked an additional question on what he will do if players decide to kneel during the anthem.
"We're going to have grace when we sit here and look at how we're going to handle it," Jones said. "I haven't met to the detail and in depth with our players that I want. I have talked to literally double handfuls of very, very engaged people. I have had input from ex-presidents, I've had input from presidents. I've had input from a cross-section of our players, former players, and I will continue to have input. This is a very serious matter. We've asked for the platform. As I mentioned earlier, we have the platform. We're going to show grace. I'm going to show grace, and I'd like to show that kind of grace in a sensitive matter that comes up. Everybody's genuine here; I'm giving everybody the benefit of the doubt relative to any decisions that I make.
"My job is to run the Dallas Cowboys, my job is to do what's right. We've asked for all of this interest, and we've asked for all of our players to give everything they got. And I want to sit down, when I have an issue and I have a decision to make, I want to show the world that I can do it with grace and come up with the right solution. I don't know what we're going to be faced with here a month from now or two months from now. When it happens, I'm giving you the backdrop of how I'll make the decision at the time or encourage our players. Our players have always been open ears for anything that I have to offer and I've been open ears for what they have to offer and that's what we'll do."