The Cowboys found a way to show solidarity without disparaging the national anthem Monday night in their own form of demonstration to publicly oppose President Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL protests.
Their Star Player Ezekiel Elliott said There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”
Every NFL team that played Sunday participated in some form of demonstration during the national anthem. The protests were sparked by Trump calling for NFL owners to fire players who decline to stand for the anthem in a rally in Alabama on Friday.
Some NFL players, coaches and executives Sunday stood arm-in-arm along the sideline. Some sat, knelt or raised a fist. The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t even come on the field during the anthem.
The Cowboys met multiple times over the last three days, sources said, to carefully consider their options. Plans began immediately after Saturday’s practice in Frisco and didn’t get finalized up until 15 minutes before kickoff. Ultimately, they chose the path of least resistance with millions of viewers tuned into their Monday Night Football game against Arizona.
Cowboys players, coaches and executives came onto the field before the national anthem and stood arm-in-arm before taking a knee. Owner Jerry Jones; his sons, Stephen and Jerry Jr.; his daughter, Charlotte; and coach Jason Garrett were among those on the field. Jones and his family are usually in a suite during the anthem.
After the Cowboys kneeled, fans at University of Phoenix Stadium booed.
The Cowboys then went to the sideline as the U.S. flag was stretched across the field. The Cowboys and the Jones family again locked arms as Jordin Sparks sang the national anthem.
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2017
“It’s been an interesting 48 hours for everybody,” Garrett said. “The objectives as much as anything else was to some how, some way to demonstrate unity and equality and do so without anyway involving the American Flag and the national anthem. It took a lot of conversation of how to do that.
The Cowboys’ demonstration carries more weight because the franchise has been referred to as “America’s Team” the last 40 years. No franchise is more valuable or draws more ratings.
“Great show of unity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tweeted.
— Roger Goodell (@nflcommish) September 26, 2017
As another show of unity, Cowboys executives, players and coaches walked out onto the field for their first training camp practice last year arm-in-arm with then-Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings and family members of the officers slain in the July 2016 ambush in Dallas.
Before Monday, no Cowboys player had publicly protested during the national anthem since Garrett became the coach midway through the 2010 season. Then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked the movement in August 2016 as he sat on the bench during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
Very few NFL players publicly protested, however, before Trump created a firestorm Friday with criticism that players referred to as “divisive.”
“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 Friday. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Trump doubled-down on his criticism of NFL players with almost 20 tweets the last three days.
“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
Jones was asked about his thoughts on Trump’s criticism.
“I made my mind up on this issue that I wasn’t going to comment,” Jones said. “I want actions to be louder than words. And we did it. We made our statement.”