The Dallas Cowboys did the right thing by kneeling before The National Anthem, then standing up for the anthem itself.
I may be a little biased on the praise, since I’ve been a Cowboys fan since 1980, but the way they handled the situation is a pretty smart way to go about it. For one, it shows the team is united. But it also shows the players, coaches, and executives wanted to do a protest, while also being extremely respectful of the country they play in, and the soldiers who died protecting said country.
It’s important to look at what the Cowboys were (briefly) demonstrating against. It wasn’t the police or police brutality concerns or racial issues or whatever. The entire team from owner Jerry Jones to Jason Garrett to Ezekiel Elliott were protesting President Donald Trump’s comments on NFL players who protest. Trump’s decision to stand there and say, “”Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,'” made a lot of Cowboys angry, including players who aren’t a fan of the player protests.
Here’s what tight end Jason Witten said to NFL Network (emphasis mine):
I’ll stand for the anthem and put my hand over my heart until the day I die. I believe that that’s everything I represent, it’s what I was taught, and that honor is really a duty of mine. I do it and will always do it, but I think that was a sign of unity that we understand we aren’t in a perfect world right now.There were comments that were made and it was hurtful, and we wanted to show that unity together. It was important at that point then to get back up for the anthem and be together. I’m just proud of our football team and how we handled it.
Witten is the player who came up with the idea to honor the four Dallas police officers and one DART officer who were killed in the 2016 ambush in downtown by inviting the families out to training camp and an “arm-in-arm” helmet decal. The same idea the NFL rejected because it violated the league’s uniform policy.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant also criticized Trump.
We’re not going to let a guy like that tear us apart. Not just us but this whole entire league. We’re a prime example of positive people…He should have never said that. It was a clear punch in the face. I feel like we made up for that.
Bryant, also for those wondering, is the same player who was criticized last month for not taking a knee during The National Anthem. Bryant’s belief is players should be a more positive influence in the community, and prefers letting his involvement speak for itself.
Other Cowboys used saltier language regarding what Trump said with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence telling Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “We feel like that was some dumb ass [crap] he said. I’m just being real.”
One thing commentators pointed out over the weekend was how quiet owner Jerry Jones had been on Trump’s comments. CNNMoney even ran a story noting Jones was one of only two NFL owners who had given money to Trump (a group Jones is president of donated $1M to Trump’s inauguration) but hadn’t commented on the President’s “fire the players” declaration. The story also claimed Jones had “earlier been critical of players who protested during the anthem.” What Jones actually said was he feels “very strongly” the flag needed to be recognized in a positive way, but I digress.
Well, guess who came up with the idea of kneeling before the anthem? If you said, “Jerry Jones,” you’d be correct! So much for “being silent.”
Of course, not everyone is happy with Jones’ gesture. Jeremy Binckes at Salon called it a PR ploy, an “empty gesture of empathy,” and “completely hollow.” Mark Davis at The Dallas Morning News wrote it would have been better if the Cowboys showed “real unity” by “making sure everyone stands at attention and shows respect to the anthem with no kneeling, arm-locking, hula hooping or anything else to distract from what proper respect requires.” Davis’ ire is the fact the team decided to do anything on game day, and would prefer any talk of unity to happen during the week. I think he’s right because sports games, to me, are supposed to be a break from life. It doesn’t mean players should be punished for deciding to give their opinion on game day, whether it’s kneeling during the anthem or raising a fist, but I’d prefer the separation of sports and politics. Which means if the Cowboys had done nothing, I wouldn’t be howling to high heaven.
At the same time, I’m also quite fine with the Cowboys deciding to kneel down before the anthem because the game hadn’t officially started, nor had the flag been rolled out onto the field. Jones is also a showman, so his decision to come up with some grandiose gesture is unsurprising. It’s making the best of a bad situation: criticize the president (who Jones is friends with) for making a dumb comment, while also showing respect to the nation and the flag. The fact so many people from both sides of the aisle are mad about it…shows it was probably the right call.