It's Now Trump, Pence and Cowboys' Jerry Jones vs. the NFL

In his seemingly neverending series of skirmishes with the National Football League, Donald Trump at last found support from an old friend.

Jerry Jones, the charismatic oil billionaire and owner of the Dallas Cowboys, performed something of a volte-face on Monday night, telling ESPN that his players "need consequences" should they feel the desire to kneel during the national anthem.

Jones outlined those consequences on Sunday night after the Green Bay Packers beat his Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. "If there's anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play," Jones told assembled reporters. "Understand? We will not... if we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period."

Jones told ESPN that the policy of suspending Cowboys players from games if they fail to stand during the anthem is not a new one, and has been in place since last season when Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, first began to kneel in protest at perceived police brutality toward minority groups in the United States.

But it still appeared a departure from Jones's previous stance displayed earlier this season, when he knelt along with the Cowboys players prior to the anthem, before a game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale on September 26 on Monday Night Football. Jones and the Cowboys then stood and linked arms for the anthem.

Jones, who donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration fund, drew praise from the embattled president late on Monday. "A big salute to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who will BENCH players who disrespect our Flag."Stand for Anthem or sit for game!" Trump tweeted. Trump has faced strident criticism since he told a rally in Alabama on September 22 that any NFL player who knelt for the anthem should be "fired." On Sunday, Vice-President Mike Pence left Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis early after around half a dozen 49ers players knelt during the anthem. Trump explained later that evening in a tweet that he had instructed Pence to leave the game between the Indianapolis Colts and 49ers if "any players kneeled, disrespecting our country."