NFL players
The NFL Players Association released a statement backing the players right to protest during the national anthem. Pittsburg Steelers players are pictured on Oct. 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Getty Images

Amid the controversy surrounding symbolic protests during the national anthem on game days, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) released a statement supporting players’ rights to "peacefully raise awareness."

After Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters on Sunday that if his players didn’t stand during the anthem, they won’t play, the NFLPA released a statement defending players' decision to protest.

"Our men and their families are also conscientious Americans who continue to be forces for good through our communities and some have decided to use their platform to peacefully raise awareness to issues that deserve attention," the statement read.

"It is a source of enormous pride that some of the best conversations about these issues have taken place in our locker rooms in a respectful, civil and thoughtful way that should serve as a model for how all of us can communicate with each other.

"We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects. That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave."

The association’s statement follows an incident Sunday during which Vice President Mike Pence left a Colts-49ers game after he witnessed several players kneeling during the anthem.

President Donald Trump, who has been roundly opposed to the in-game protests, took to Twitter Sunday and said he urged Pence to leave the game if players decided to protest.

Last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sat with NFL owners, players and members of the player’s association regarding the protests. NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith doubled down Monday on the association’s words when he released a statement on his personal Twitter account.

"Last week both the Commissioner and the Chair of the NFL Management Council [and Giants co-owner] 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 wrote.

"I look forward to the day when everyone in Management can unite and truly embrace and articulate what the 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."

President Trump set the NFL ablaze last month when he berated players who protested during the anthem, suggesting that team owners fire anyone who participated.

"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,'" Trump said during a rally in Alabama.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat during a preseason game last year in protest of racial injustice in America.