Football is, at its core, a battle of wills. Unstoppable-force-versus-immovable-object, and all that. But the butting of heads has started well before the opening of the 2020 season. And for all the drama that’s sure to unfold on the gridiron and between the whistles, there’s a major staredown brewing over what happens in the moments before kickoff.
Cowboys fans and players alike spent most of the uneasy summer months wondering how the team’s front office would handle the matter of players demonstrating and protesting social issues prior to NFL games this fall. Now that franchise owner Jerry Jones has weighed in to support his players, the president’s son has also jumped in with an opinion sure to keep the debate raging as Week 1 approaches.
As for the league’s most visible owner, he admitted Tuesday that fans abandoning America’s Team over any protests that take place during the national anthem would be “a huge issue.”
During a time when many players are expected to take a knee in protest of racial inequality and social injustice, the erstwhile billionaire businessman admitted that he- as always- has one eye on the bottom line.
Jones was asked during a phone conversation with 105.3 The Fan about Cowboys fans who may prefer to keep a clear separation between sport and state.
“That is a huge issue. Huge. You know, by just the nature of the way that I run the team, how much I appreciate the interest that’s in the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of it is just interest because they want to see us get beat, but still, the big interest is there. I’m very sensitive to that. That’s exactly why I’ve said that I want our players to be very sensitive to just how important it is to the majority of our fans- more than any other team, the majority of our fans- how sensitive they are, recognizing what this great country is and what this flag stands for.
“Everybody knows where I stand. And there’s no equivocation there at all. I feel fortunate to be a part of an entity, the Dallas Cowboys, and a sport that has that much interest. Consequently, I want everybody to understand that if any player that is standing out there has a serious, serious, serious awareness of the kind of sensitivity there is there and they ask for help with that in mind, in a way that you would ask for help. It’s not good to be obstreperous or anything if you’re asking people to see it through your eyes and see it in your way. It’s important to show the kind of grace. I’m very confident that on both sides- our players as well as our fans- that we can come together for grace. It is all about trying hard to move the ball forward, to see where the other guy is coming from. Not necessarily to agree, but to see where he is coming from. I hope the Dallas Cowboys can be part of that, just because that’s of interest in what we’re talking about this morning.”
Jones’s comments came the morning after a tweet by Eric Trump in which he pronounced football “officially dead.” That Sunday night post on Twitter appears to have been directly prompted by a Washington Examiner story about Cowboys players having been given the “green light” to engage in individual protests on the sidelines this fall.
Football is officially dead — so much for “America’s sport.” Goodbye NFL… I’m gone. https://t.co/FSJeyvsql3
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) September 8, 2020
Running back Ezekiel Elliott confirmed for ProFootballTalk in an interview that several of his teammates will likely take a knee during the playing of the national anthem at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles before Sunday night’s contest.
“I think we’re going to have guys kneeling, we’re going to have guys standing, and the biggest thing is that we’re all supporting each other,” Elliott said. “We’re all supporting each other, and that’s what’s going to bring us all together.”
Elliott believes that all of the Cowboys players have Jones’s full support- if not his endorsement- since the owner has preached grace as his strategy ever since first speaking out on the matter. That came, though, only after a prolonged silence as marches and protests in American cities dominated headlines over the summer.
“I think everyone in the locker room feels that we’re going to get support from ownership, coaching staff, and from each other. I think everyone is going to feel free to express themselves however they choose to,” Elliott continued.
While Jones did not mention the tweet from the president’s son or the threatened loss of his viewership, the Cowboys owner did allow that the high-profile nature of the most valuable franchise in sports puts any action by a player wearing the star under the most powerful of microscopes.
“Let me be real clear: We don’t have anybody out there that isn’t very, very sensitive about the interest and the visibility of the Dallas Cowboys. They’re all very aware of it. We’re the most visible entity in all of television. More eyeballs watch when we play than any program in all of television. Sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not.”
And with that lion’s share of the spotlight, Jones says he trusts his players to use it to draw attention not to themselves, but to the issues that should also matter to fans.
He said he trusts the Cowboys players this season to:
“…Have the motivation to, if you will, not use the sideline or use that part of the game- the national anthem- not use that to get people’s attention, because that’s already been gotten. Everybody understands the issues. Everybody does. Our players, I want them to use the Cowboys to ask for help from the majority of people that will be watching them on the sideline. And to ask for help, to ask them to be sensitive about the social issue that is at hand here … Because right now, in our society, we’ve got some things that we do need to address. And I want the Cowboys to be a part of that.”
The Cowboys and 31 other teams in the league will undoubtedly be a part of addressing those social issues that are at hand. Whether a majority of fans side with the players in seeking to understand and address those issues… or side with those who would choose to simply turn off the TV and continue living in a broken status quo may be the ultimate showdown of the 2020 NFL season.
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