FRISCO, Texas -- Local 100 of the United Labor Unions filed a complaint against the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, alleging owner and general manager Jerry Jones has violated the National Labor Relations Act by threatening players if they choose not to stand for the national anthem.
Jones said earlier this week if a player "disrespects the flag" and national anthem by not standing, then the player will not play.
According to the filing to the National Labor Relations Board, "the employer, evidenced by repeated public statements, is attempting to threaten, coerce and intimidate all Dallas Cowboys players on the roster in order to prevent them from exercising concerted activity protected under the act by saying that he will fire any players involved in such concerted activity."
Jones has said players will not play, not that they would be fired, if they do not stand for the anthem, but Wade Rathke, Local 100s chief organizer, said that is a "distinction without difference when it comes to the law."
The Cowboys will not comment on the filing, according to a spokesman. The NFL has declined to comment.
"You can't discipline somebody for something that is a right they have under the law, whether that discipline be termination or benching or giving a slap on the wrist or writing up in their files they've been a bad boy," Rathke said. "That's just not what they can do when it comes to concerted activities. I know in the modern age people think workers shouldn't have rights, but they still do. This union was offended by those comments. Mr. Jones just got carried away being a rich guy and there's no laws he has to respect."
According to Rathke, the NLRB will assign a field agent to investigate the claim and if there is a determination that there is a violation of the act it will go to trial if no settlement is reached.
"I'm hoping this doesn't go to hell and back on the labor board," Rathke said. "I think Mr. Jones should just say, 'I stepped out of line.' Fine. ... We're not looking for blood."
According to the NFL's game manual, players are not required to stand for the anthem; however, it is written that they "should" stand at attention.
On Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to NFL teams expressing a belief that "everyone should stand for the national anthem" and that the dispute surrounding the issue is "threatening to erode the unifying power of our game." He spoke of a plan that will be reviewed with the teams at next week's league meeting, which would "include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues."
President Donald Trump has called on NFL owners since last month to fire players who do not stand for the anthem, saying their protest "disrespects the flag" and the country.
Before their Sept. 25 game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys players, coaches and staff, including Jones, stood locked arm in arm and took a knee before the anthem. During the anthem, they stood arm in arm. In the past two games, the Cowboys have stood on the sideline as they had before President Trump's initial comments.
Defensive linemen Damontre Moore and David Irving raised their fists at the end of the national anthem before Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers. They told Cowboys coach Jason Garrett that they did so "well after" the anthem, and the coach said they would not be disciplined.
Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, Jones left open the opportunity for a player to have a form of silent protest before the anthem -- similar to the way the Cowboys handled the situation before the anthem in Arizona as a team -- or after the anthem.
"If we're going to have any other recognition the place to have it is before the anthem in my view and be real clear that it's not associated with the anthem," Jones said. "I think it's real important for our players that they have that to reply to anybody whether they're asking them to express themselves or not that the way we do it where I work, where I earn my livelihood, is that we stand for the flag."
"The policy and my actions are going to be that if you're not honoring, standing for the flag in a way that a lot of our fans feel that you should, if that's not the case, then you won't play," Jones said, noting that his stance is "nothing new." He added, "As far as whether or not I will basically institute or basically do what I said, I just would say that the implication that we're not respecting the flag ... is just not going to be accepted and so I would just ask anybody to look at my record relative to what I say I'm going to do and you go from there."