Dallas Cowboys defensive end David Irving raised his right fist during the final note of the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.
All Cowboys players, including Irving, stood. Eight 49ers players, six in uniform, took a knee during the anthem.
Sunday marked the Cowboys’ first game since owner Jerry Jones’ comments two weeks ago threatening to bench any Cowboys players who did “anything that is disrespectful to the flag.” Those comments were followed by a meeting days later between Jones and players.
Jones spoke to other owners last week during a lengthy discussion about player protests during league meetings in New York City, but did not speak with reporters. The league made no change to a written policy that says players “should” stand, but does not require it.
No Cowboys players have kneeled during the anthem over the past year and a half. Irving and fellow defensive end raised a fist at the conclusion of the anthem two weeks ago.
Sunday’s game in Santa Clara provided an interesting picture of the anthem protests – and how NFL teams have handled it.
Eight total 49ers players took a knee during Sunday’s anthem, led by safety Eric Reid, who was the first player to join former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protest racial inequality and police brutality last year. Owner Jed York has perhaps been the league’s most vocal owner in supporting players’ First Amendment rights.
York was one of 11 owners who met with players, including Reid, in New York last week to discuss the protests and work players and teams are hoping to accomplish. Jones did not participate in that approximately four-hour long meeting.
“I think the more that you have owners and players together, not just me meeting with 49ers players, but several owners meeting with players from different teams and it’s not about collective bargaining issues, it’s not about workplace environment, it’s really understanding where different people come from and knowing that a lot of players, it may not be the exact same issue, but there are things that rely around social inequalities that they’ve seen and experienced that they can share those experiences with owners,” York said earlier this week. “You’re seeing people that might not understand that firsthand. They’re getting a much better perspective.”