Cowboys QB Dak Prescott says anthem protests should be individual decision

Stephen A. implores Jerry Jones to pick a side on anthem kneeling (2:23)

Stephen A. Smith goes in depth on Jerry Jones saying he hopes there can be a compromise in terms of players kneeling during the anthem. (2:23)

FRISCO, Texas -- If Dallas Cowboys players make any kind of gesture during the national anthem regarding social injustice, Dak Prescott believes it should be an individual choice, and coach Mike McCarthy supports his quarterback.

"That's what this country is about, the freedom to do that, the freedom to express yourself," Prescott said Wednesday. "We heard Mr. Jones [Cowboys owner Jerry Jones] talk about grace and sharing grace and having grace with players in what they want to do. If I had it my way, that's exactly what we'd do is express ourselves individually, but love and support one another collectively."

On Thursday, McCarthy said, "I think it's what's best for all of us. I think the individuality of expressing yourself is part of that decision. I saw Dak's comments this morning and I think he expressed it very well. I thought he hit the nail right on the head, and that's the way we'll move forward."

How the Cowboys handle the anthem prior to the Sept. 13 opener against the Los Angeles Rams will be viewed with more scrutiny because Jones has said in the past that players must stand or not play.

Jones has not said what he expects from his players before the anthem this year. In his opening news conference of training camp, Jones said he would have "grace," which suggested he would be more open to players gesturing.

Speaking last week on 105.3 The Fan, however, he said he hoped to reach a compromise similar to one in 2017.

Then, Jones worked out a compromise with the players: taking a knee before the anthem, then standing arm in arm during the anthem. No player has tested Jones' policy since, although former defensive lineman David Irving would raise a fist at the end of the anthem. Robert Quinn and Michael Bennett protested while with other teams before coming to the Cowboys, but both stood for the anthem last year, although Bennett paced in the bench area.

Jones was not part of a team meeting last week that dealt with the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and continued calls for social justice, but executive vice president Stephen Jones was.

"The takeaways from the team meeting, just that ownership supports us. They support the team," Ezekiel Elliott said. "We're going to support each other. Our steps forward from this point on, just making sure we get out in the community. We want to focus on working with the youth going back in our Dallas community and working with the youth."

Asked Thursday if the team would have a meeting with Jerry Jones, McCarthy said, "I would say that those conversations are ongoing. There have been conversations, and frankly, what comes out of those conversations is probably more to the people that are in them. It's not, frankly, something I'm specifically going to talk on. This has been an ongoing conversation since we got together there back in April and May."

Prescott pledged $1 million for police reform after George Floyd was killed in May. Prescott has taken part in discussions with local police departments over the past year and is in the process of starting programs through his foundation.

"We need the trust. Trust is both ways. It's just such a sensitive time we're in. It's very unfortunate," Prescott said. "But I think the best thing we can all do is educate ourselves right now. Just because we're popular doesn't mean that we're politicians. So I think we all need to be better at that -- at educating ourselves and figuring out exactly what it is we can do and the particular role we can play within our communities and then further that."