Politics are bad for the NFL, said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones while speaking to Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.
“One thing about the NFL,” said Jones, “politics are not good for us, in any way.”
“Politicians can win the presidency on 51% of the vote — or less,” he added. “The Dallas Cowboys, the NFL, sports need 90% of the interest. So 50 [percent] doesn’t work for us. So we’ve got to stay away from politics when the social gets over into politics.”
Politics and social justice issues have frequently been given the spotlight in the NFL after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the National Anthem in 2016 to highlight racial inequality, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
As the protest quickly spread to other players on other teams, the billionaire businessman and Trump supporter told his Cowboys players that they would be required to stand for the anthem.
NFL owners voted in favor of a policy that would allow players to stay in the locker rooms in protest if they didn’t want to stand during the anthem. It was a policy that Jones did not support. "Our policy is that you stand at the anthem, toe on the line,” he said last year. (Jones also added at the time that he thought President Trump’s “interest in what we're doing is problematic from my chair, and I would say in general the owners' chair.")
Though his position on the anthem is clear, he said, he believes that athletes — and the NFL — should use their platform to highlight activist issues.
“Society says if you’re going to get all this attention, you’re going to get all these eyeballs, then use it to help society in any way you can,” Jones said.
“I never thought that I’d be working on bullying,” he continued. “Or I never thought I’d be working on many of these other social issues. You bet there’s a lot of things that we can do better in this country. To the extent that the NFL has the platform and the visibility, we should use it.”
The NFL isn’t the only league that has seen athletes use their platform to call attention to social justice issues. During the Pan American games this month, a few American competitors kneeled or raised fists during the anthem. With the upcoming 2020 Olympics, it is possible that Olympians in Tokyo will mirror their protests.
Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.