Jerry Jones: Donald Trump's interest in anthem issue 'problematic'

OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones will not bend on his edict that his players will stand for the national anthem, but he wishes President Donald Trump would not bring up the controversy as often as he does.

"His interest in what we're doing is problematic, from my chair, and I would say in general the owners' chair," Jones said at Wednesday's news conference to open training camp. "It's unprecedented, if you really think about it. But like the very game itself, that's the way it is and we'll deal with it.

"We feel strongly about how we deal with it and we'll do so accordingly, but, yes, I, like everybody, would like for it to go away."

When the anthem issue reached a fervor last season, Jones spoke with Trump on multiple occasions. The president has raised the issue multiple times this offseason and even recently, saying players should be suspended if they choose to take a knee.

At the spring owners meetings, the NFL announced a new policy that would require players on the sideline to stand for the anthem. Players who do not want to stand could remain in the locker room. In the past, the policy stated that players should stand, but it was not required.

When asked if he would support a player who chose to remain in the locker room, Jones said: "Our policy is that you stand at the anthem, toe on the line."

Last week, the league and the NFL Players Association issued a joint statement that said "no new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks" while both sides continue to hold discussions to figure out how to move forward.

"The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue," the joint statement said. "In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA's grievance and on the NFL's anthem policy.

"The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice. Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation."

With Jones saying the Cowboys will stand for the anthem, players were asked about the subject following Thursday's practice. Linebacker Sean Lee said, "I think I'm going to do what I've always done and stand. Obviously I believe there's social injustice that needs to change in this country that are very serious. But I also believe that I'm going to stand for the anthem because I feel like I'm blessed to be an American. I'm blessed to have two grandfathers who served. These are ideas that are not mutually exclusive. I know one thing, our locker room has stayed unified. We've respected everybody's opinion and we're going to be a group that stays united and works toward a common goal."

On Wednesday, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said he was involved in a conversation with the league about the anthem issue Tuesday.

"They are open for discussion," Sherman said of the NFL. "... We have started to get suggestions from players, and the league has been very open to hearing those suggestions and they've been very amicable in our discussions about potentially making adjustments to that policy.

"I think some thought it was short-sighted, but they [NFL] felt like they had to get something out, and I think they should be commended for being open to hearing what the players have to say about it and moving in that way."

With the suspension of the discussions, Jones said the teams do not have to file their anthem policy with the league. The Associated Press reported the Miami Dolphins could impose a four-game suspension for any player who protested during the anthem. However, multiple sources with the Dolphins and the NFL told ESPN that the Dolphins' submission of their potential disciplinary policies was merely part of an annual filing required of every team before the start of training camp.

"Obviously I wouldn't dare speak for any of the other owners, much less in general about 31 other owners," Jones said. "But as far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned, you know where I stand. Our team knows where I stand on the issue, and that's where we are."

In other business news, Jones said the Cowboys would continue their relationship with Papa John's as other teams across the sports landscape have distanced themselves from the pizza franchise after company founder and spokesman John Schnatter used a racial slur during an internal company conference call in May.

The Cowboys own 50 Papa John's restaurants in North Texas, according to Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones.

"[Those teams] do not have the same relationship that the Cowboys have with the Papa John's business in Texas," said Jones, who has appeared in commercials for the company while rapping and break dancing. "We own the Papa John's in Texas and feel strongly that our Cowboys are the face of Papa John's and that judgment is warranted by what we've done over the last 15 years.

"... The point is: We just want to work real hard. We literally have thousands of people who work in those stores."

Schnatter apologized for his comments and stepped down as chairman but remains on the company's board. He has since said his decision to step down was a "mistake.'' The company says it is also investigating allegations reported in Forbes that Schnatter oversaw a work culture where women were subject to sexist behavior.

"That's very unfortunate. ... It's unfortunate for the company and unfortunate for John," Jones said. "I'm sure if he could do it over again, he'd like do-overs. But the bottom line is the Cowboys, in our relationship [with the franchise], we own those stores. It's not an endorsement.

"... At the end of the day, we've got too many people, too many customers ... that we just need to do as good as we can do under the circumstances. Everybody knows certainly that there's not bias here relative to the Dallas Cowboys, and so we feel comfortable in going ahead and taking care of our business."

ESPN's Nick Wagoner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.