Jerry Jones' anthem protest compromise would be no compromise at all

In the end, it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise.

In late May and early June, as NFL teams and franchise owners released statements condemning the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and some even took action, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was silent.

Dallas released a video on social media on June 4 that featured some players and community leaders with the line, “Difficult dialogue moves protest toward progress.”

Jones wasn’t part of the video.

After his comments on Tuesday, it’s hard to believe he has been part of any “difficult dialogue” either.

Jones told 105.3 The Fan, the Cowboys’ flagship radio station, that he wants players to compromise and not kneel during the anthem, but before.

Compromise.

Black Americans are always being compromised. The three-fifths compromise. Plessy vs. Ferguson. Jim Crow. Redlining. Mass incarceration. Voter suppression.

Or we’re asked to compromise. Compromise our humanity. Compromise our Constitutional rights. Compromise our voices.

Compromise is just another way of telling us to shut up and wait, or shut up and take what we deign to give you, or just ... shut up.

Jerry Jones speaks at a microphone with a Cowboys helmet in front of him and a Cowboys backdrop behind him.
Jerry Jones wants Dallas Cowboys players to compromise. Many of them are compromising already. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Jones seems to forget: Kneeling was a compromise. When Colin Kaepernick began his protest against systemic injustice and police brutality four years ago this month, he originally sat on the San Francisco 49ers’ bench during the anthem. It was after meeting with former Army Green Beret Nate Boyer that he began kneeling, with Boyer telling him that taking a knee was more respectful.

Kaepernick compromised.

Even though his righteous fury over Black citizens being killed in the streets by the very people sworn to supposedly protect and serve them led him to protest and bring attention to the issue, he acquiesced to Boyer’s idea.

There is no compromising justice and civil rights and equality, to expect, as the founding document of this country declares, that all lives are created equal. That includes Black lives.

Since Kaepernick began protesting, a wave of NFL players followed suit. Dozens have been using their platforms to try to bring about any measure of racial justice. Ahmaud Arbery suffered a modern-day lynching in broad daylight. Breonna Taylor was killed as she slept. Floyd was killed under Derek Chauvin’s knee, Chauvin staying on his neck until after Floyd had taken his last breath. In the three months since Floyd’s death, there have been sustained protests that have led to some changes and a hope that this time, things will be different.

And still Jones wants compromise.

He either hasn’t been paying attention, or he has and is unmoved.

By saying he wants to recognize fans who would be bothered by players protesting, it seems that the latter is true and Jones values their money over the well-being of players.

If fans are uncomfortable with Black men silently kneeling during a song that — by the way — was written by a slaveholder, imagine how uncomfortable it is waking up nearly every day and seeing another video of a man or woman who looks like you — or your spouse or your sibling or your child — harassed, beaten or worse for little more than the “crime” of being born Black.

Jerry Jones kneels and locks arms with Cowboys players.
Kneeling before the anthem — but standing during it — was Jerry Jones' compromise with Cowboys players in 2017. (Matt York/AP File)

That’s reality for the majority of Cowboys players, many of whom have spoken out via social media, expressing their frustration and anguish. Running back Ezekiel Elliott was one of the star players featured in the June video asking, “What if I was George Floyd?”

At least one Dallas player, defensive lineman Dontari Poe, has affirmed that he intends to kneel for at least the season-opening game. Jones said on Tuesday that he intends to speak with Poe, and was quick to say “everyone is going to be sensitive to what it is we’re about. We’re out there to ask the fans to follow [the team], to be attentive to us, and we’re well aware of the issue and well aware of where Dallas Cowboys fans are on it.”

Even Mr. Magoo can read between those lines.

As Drew Brees did earlier this summer, when he ignored the fact that there were Black soldiers who fought alongside his grandfathers in World War II (and didn’t get the benefits of the GI Bill when they returned), Jones seems to conveniently forget that there are Black Cowboys fans, and they likely have no problem with player protests and are happy to see those men doing what they can to help those who don’t have the same fame or resources.

On Tuesday, with discussion dominated by yet another police shooting of a Black man, this time Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia turned things over to players for an hours-long conversation and then canceled practice to allow players to demonstrate and address media in front of the team facility.

And Jones wants to talk about compromise?

What he wants isn’t a compromise at all. It’s his way. And that way is complicity with the status quo.

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