The Dallas Cowboys, led by Jason Witten, paid a noble tribute at the start of training camp to the police officers who were killed in a July shooting in downtown Dallas. But the NFL shut down the team’s plans to honor the officers further.
Players, coaches and executives came out for the start of training camp on July 30 with a show of solidarity, walking arm-in-arm with Dallas police chief David Brown, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings and some family members of the officers who were killed.
Witten came up with the idea for the tribute at the start of camp and wanted to continue the message by wearing an “Arm in Arm” decal on the side of the Cowboys’ helmets this season, both in the preseason and in the regular season.
That request was denied by the league, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The uniform police trumped the regular police, in this case.
“Everyone has to be uniform with the league and the other 31 teams,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after practice Wednesday. “We respect their decision.”
We don’t. Yes, it’s true that the NFL needs rules, guidelines and restrictions with these uniforms, and control of their product so that every player isn’t altering them every time a guppy dies on a road trip. There’s a set of guidelines in place for a reason, and the intent is correct as it’s written. But with every rule, there’s a worthy exception.
The NFL respectfully disagrees. That’s why it shut down tributes by Cameron Heyward to honor his father, by DeAngelo Williams to support breast cancer research, William Gay to raise domestic violence awareness and so on. Those three oft-cited examples are all from the Pittsburgh Steelers; there are 31 other teams worth of players who have had similar requests turned back.
And yet Devon Still was allowed to go without a fine for honoring his daughter with eyeblack. It makes no sense.
The sad part? This is not shocking. It was expected that the league would deny nearly all of these efforts. In turn, players see this and stop asking. Their powerful voices as messengers are then muted. Sure, there are other ways to pay tribute than a sticker on a helmet. But it takes away one noble attempt to do good.
In the past, the league has said it doesn’t have the time and manpower to review all of these requests and make exceptions. But Shutdown Corner’s Frank Schwab has a great suggestion: Have Roger Goodell give up 1 percent of his $40 million annual salary to hire a handful of former players whose job is to review these requests and then present them to the league. That could help a few former players looking for work and also help charities and awareness for some good causes. But that would be too logical.
Even if this were to happen, not all tributes should be accepted. There should be strict limitations to what can happen. We understand the need for this. But for a team wanting to pay tribute to some fallen public servants and their families — something the NFL has said for years is important — with maybe 30 seconds of air time on the broadcasts during games and be denied for it? It comes off as tone deaf, rigid and, to turn one of Goodell’s most embraced phases on its head, generally unaware.
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