Ex-Cowboy, Air Force vet Chad Hennings: NFL, players have been ‘played as pawns’ 

FILE - Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Chad Hennings (left) talks to former Cowboys...

Editor’s note: This was published on Sept. 25 when the Cowboys played the Cardinals on Monday Night Football. The team, including owner Jerry Jones, knelt before the anthem and stood with locked arms during it. Since that game, Jones has said that any of his players who disrespect the flag during the national anthem won’t play in games.

Chad Hennings - Wikipedia

Chad Hennings flew missions in the Persian Gulf.

He was a member of the Cowboys championship teams of the 1990s.

What he saw unfold across the NFL during national anthems Sunday made him sad. The Air Force veteran believes the league, owners and players have allowed themselves to be used as pawns as part of a larger political game.

“My thoughts are it’s extremely unfortunate that the events have come out the way that they have,” Hennings said. “I totally believe the league, the owners and the players have been played as pawns on both sides of the political fence to continue to divide an already divided nation.

Air Force vet, Cowboys great Chad Hennings answers: What does it mean to serve? | wfaa.com

“Who is making out more on this? It’s the political parties, not the people who want to watch sports and athletics as an escape, to cheer on their team and to not deal with what they are inundated with on social media day in and day out.

“I’ll leave it at that.”

The league-wide protests were sparked by President Trump, who called for NFL owners to fire players who decline to stand for the anthem in a rally in Alabama on Friday evening, then doubled down on that stance on Twitter in the following hours.

Hennings: All-American, fighter pilot, now author – The Denver Post

Hennings was selected by the Cowboys in the 1988 draft. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior linemen in ’87 as a member of the Air Force Academy.

The defensive tackle didn’t join the Cowboys until the ’92 season. He trained at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls. He became an A-10 pilot and was assigned to the 92d Tactical Fighter Squadron based in the United Kingdom.

Hennings was deployed to the Persian Gulf on two occasions. He twice received the Air Force Achievement Medal, which is a humanitarian award.

The most emotional moment for Hennings on Sunday came when he saw Pittsburgh left tackle Alejandro Villanueva stand outside the tunnel for the anthem while the rest of his teammates remained in the locker room.

Villanueva is a West Point graduate who served as an Army Ranger and had three tours of duty in Afghanistan. He won the Bronze Star.

“As a veteran of the service academy, for him to be the lone member to stand there, that’s leadership 101 right there,” Hennings said. “To me, that was the shining moment of all of the unfortunate actions over the weekend.”

The Cowboys played the Arizona Cardinals Monday night. Owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett have been consistent and clear that they believe everyone should stand during the anthem.

They stood again Monday night. But just before the anthem was played the players, arm-in-arm with coaches and the Jones family _ Jerry, Stephen, Charlotte and Jerry Jr. _ took a quick knee.

“Best compromise they could have done,” Hennings said. “NFL has unfortunately backed themselves into a no-win situation.

“Cowboys did pretty much the only thing to come out respectful of both sides.”

Before that response, Hennings had this to say about the organization.

“I believe ownership, the coaches and the players are unified in it,” he said. “They are going to honor the flag. If you’re going to brandish the moniker of America’s Team, you respect the anthem.”

That’s what made Sunday so difficult for Chad Hennings.

“I’m very saddened by what happened,” he said. “The climate the way it is, the division.

“Coming from a perspective of service, knowing all of the people who put themselves in harm’s way, you want to support that and represent all of the good aspects of what America stands for.

“For that to happen the way it did, it saddens me.”

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