NFLPA's Smith: 'No player is disrespecting our country or our flag'

Oct 9 (The Sports Xchange) - NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith released a statement Monday regarding players protesting during the national anthem, saying "no player is disrespecting our country or our flag."

Smith's statement comes following Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' comments on Sunday that his players must stand for the anthem or else they would not play.

SEE ALSO: Jerry Jones says Cowboys players who disrespect the flag will not play

In addition, Vice President Mike Pence left Sunday's game in Indianapolis when the visiting San Francisco 49ers knelt during the national anthem before facing the Colts.

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Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence stand during the national anthem prior to the start of an NFL football game between the Indiana Colts and the San Francisco 49ers at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., October 8, 2017. White House/Myles Cullen/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
If this was a planned stunt, I'm still surprised Pence went along with it. He defends Trump, yes, but usually not proactive like this.
gotta pay my taxes this week for pence to go to football games just to leave them
Remember, just because Mike Pence SAYS NFL'ers are protesting the flag, the soldiers and the anthem" doesn't mean it's true. B/C it's not.
mike pence left the colts game because they didn't have szechuan sauce
@jdawsey1 Just trying to clarify. So, Pence said "I'm going to the game" and Trump (or Company) suggested, "how bou… https://t.co/DYgTOaTFZq
Some applauding Pence act of protest, condemn NFL players exercising same right (NOT on tax-payers' dime). Constitution doesn't cherry-pick.
Sense in White House is Pence made a mistake/tactical error by telling Trump in advance he was going to an NFL game.
Someone better tell Mike Pence that a football game is not the right time or place to protest. He can do free speech on his own time.
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"Last week both the Commissioner and the Chair of the NFL Management Council John Mara were clear when they assured our union leaders, in the presence of other owners, that they would respect the Constitutional rights of our members without retribution," Smith said in a statement. "I look forward to the day when everyone in Management can unite and truly embrace and article what that Flag stands for: 'Liberty and Justice for All' instead of some of them just talking about standing. We look forward to continuing our talks with them on this very issue.

"No player is disrespecting our Country or our Flag. As thousands have shown in the past, it takes bravery and courage to speak and confront these issues as our players have, especially when it is unpopular with some. There is room for Management to do the same and maybe then players do not have to risk the taunts and threats alone. This is their opportunity to lead as well and will be a true test of the motto that 'Football is Family.'"

Jones' comments occurred in response to Pence abruptly leaving Sunday's game after more than 20 49ers knelt during the national anthem.

"Understand? We will not ... if we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period," Jones said after the Cowboys' 35-31 home loss to the Green Bay Packers.

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Sep 24, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts players kneel during the playing of the National Anthem before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Baltimore Ravens players kneel for the American National anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Members of the Dallas Cowboys link arms and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan links arms with players during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: (L-R) Wide recceivers Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman of the Baltimore Ravens pray prior to kickoff during the NFL match between The Jacksonville Jaguars and The Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Patrick Omameh of the Jacksonville Jaguars kneels during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: (Editors Note: This image has been turned black and white) Jacksonville Jaguars enter te stadium during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Denver Bronco players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) and teammates stand next to service members holding a giant US flag during the national anthem prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The Cleveland Browns team stand and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers link arms during the national anthem prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44) middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) running back Ameer Abdullah (21) outside linebacker Steve Longa (54) defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter (98) defensive end Armonty Bryant (97) defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson (91) and defensive end Cornelius Washington (90) kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Members of the Denver Broncos kneel during the playing of the national anthem prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Dallas Cowboys players, coaches and staff take a knee prior to the National Anthem before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the playing of the United Sates national anthem before a NFL International Series game against the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Members of the New England Patriots take a knee during the national anthem before a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Some of the Miami Dolphins take a knee during the anthem prior to the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Members of the New England Patriots kneel for the national anthem before the start of the game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Patrick Omameh of the Jacksonville Jaguars kneels during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders players sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder stands with cornerback Josh Norman (24) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (26) and safety D.J. Swearinger (36) during the playing of the national anthem before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders players sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Marcus Peters (22) protests next to running back Charcandrick West (35) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (98) during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Lance Kendricks (84) and tight end Martellus Bennett (80) sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Recording artist Meghan Linsey kneels after singing the national anthem before the game between the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan links arms with players during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Members of the Chicago Bears stand arm-in-arm during the National Anthem before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs is seen taking a knee during the National Anthem before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center on September 24, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 General view during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
At the start of the game protestors take a knee in support of the movement started by NFL player Colin Kaepernick, outside Lincoln Financial Field, in South Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2017. Similar protest are staged around the nation after US President Donald Trump named Kaepernick a Son of A Bitch at a recent rally. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Strong safety Tyvon Branch #27 of the Arizona Cardinals links arms with staff and players during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Before the Cowboys' game at Arizona on Sept. 25, Jones and members of his family joined the players, coaches and staff on the field prior to the anthem. They kneeled and locked arms. When the anthem was performed, they stood arm-in-arm with the players.

The gesture was in response to President Donald Trump's comments that NFL owners should fire players who disrespect the flag by not standing during the national anthem.

Cowboys defensive ends Damontre Moore and David Irving raised their fists at the end of the anthem before the game against the Packers, according to the Dallas Morning News. Jones said he was unaware of their actions.

Pence, a former governor of Indiana, was on hand to celebrate former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's induction into the franchise's Ring of Honor.

No Colts players knelt during the anthem prior to the game but the 49ers had more than 20 players kneeling with their hands over their hearts for the second straight week.

"I left today's Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," Pence tweeted about leaving the game:

About an hour later, Trump tweeted that Pence was acting in response to his instructions.

"I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen," Trump tweeted.

NBC News reported Sunday that reporters were told before the game there could be "an early departure" by Pence.

Trump followed up Monday morning with another tweet: "The trip by @VP Pence was long planned. He is receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country!"

Trump's position unified more NFL players to protest racial injustice before or during the anthem. He said during a political rally in Huntsville, Ala., on Sept. 22 that NFL owners should fire the players who knelt during the anthem.

"We're proud of our country. We respect our flag," Trump said to loud applause at the campaign event. "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired! He's fired!'"

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew national attention last season when he knelt during the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice. A number of players followed Kaepernick's lead by taking a knee during the anthem last year.

NFL players who have demonstrated during the national anthem have said they are protesting police brutality and racism, but not the flag or the anthem itself.

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