The team's decision before the Cowboys' victory over the Cardinals on Monday night sparked spirited debate. Prescotte Stokes pstokes@star-telegram.com
The team's decision before the Cowboys' victory over the Cardinals on Monday night sparked spirited debate. Prescotte Stokes pstokes@star-telegram.com

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys link arms, take knee as a team in display of unity before anthem

By Clarence E. Hill Jr.

chill@star-telegram.com

September 25, 2017 7:34 PM

GLENDALE, Ariz.

The Dallas Cowboys linked arm in arm in a sign of unity and then took a knee as a team before the national anthem in advance of Monday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

It was the team’s coordinated response to President Donald Trump’s controversial remarks over the weekend regarding player protests during the anthem over social injustice, police brutality and racism.

The public display came one day after teams across the league took knees, stayed in the locker room and raised their fist in a sign of solidarity to counter Trump’s remarks.

The Cowboys’ coordinated and unified answer came after talks among themselves and as a team with coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones.

There were a number of players who planned to take a knee during the anthem.

“It’s been an interesting 48 hours for everybody,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said after his team beat the Cardinals 28-17 to improve to 2-1 on the season. “The objectives, as much as anything else, was to some how, some way convey unity, some how some way convey the importance of equality. It took a lot of conversations to do that.”

“This is a challenging issue,” Garrett said. “Our players get put in a situation where they feel pressure from a lot of different places. They were thoughtful. They were communicative. They were open with each other. Those things, unity and the importance of expressive our support for equality in this country, those are things that rose to the fore front. Everybody kept their eye on the ball. Ultimately, we figured out away to logistically accomplish those goals.”

The compromise came with Jones, Garrett, vice president Stephen Jones joining the team in linking arms in the yard markers on the field and then taking a knee as a team before going back to the sideline to stand for the anthem. They continued to link arms during the anthem.

It was a testament to Jones’ ability to persuade and unify, but also offer a concession by kneeling himself. It was Jones who actually came up with the final plan, per receiver Brice Butler.

“I was just happy we were able to do something together," receiver Brice Butler said. "Initially, we had a certain plan. Then Jerry (Jones) came and spoke to us before the game and was like, "Just trust me on this, let's do this together.' That was Jerry's plan. I actually liked it because everybody did it.”

The Cowboys began discussing their plans after the walk-through on Saturday morning, according to a source. It carried over until Sunday night after the team arrived in Phoenix and then into Monday.

It included player-only meetings, captains meetings, team meetings with the head coach before involving ownership.

The final plan didn’t come together until about an hour before the game.

Jones talked to the Cardinals ownership to let them know what the Cowboys planned to do and to discuss logistics.

Jones didn’t make public statements as many owners did across the league because he is often available for comment after the game and felt that the display of linked arms and a collective kneeling “would be statement enough.”

Jones and Garrett have made it clear they want the Cowboys standing during the anthem out of respect for the military.

“I’m proud of that the fact that the Dallas Cowboys and our players have always stood,” Jones said. “Always stood for the flag, always. What is important is to do that and how could they show unity and a statement for equality. There is no need for us to talk about unity and equality and have 60 percent of the country is going to be mad at you because you are not perceived to be honoring the flag. This was a way to do both.”

The Cowboys have adhered to those wishes since the anthem protests were started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season.

But that was going to change as some Cowboys planned to protest to show solidarity with their brethren across the league in a silent rebuke to Trump for what is now a three-day attack on the NFL and players.

At a rally in Alabama on Friday, Trump ripped NFL players who protested and said any NFL owner should “fire” players who did so. Trump said that owner would become “the most popular person in this country” for a week.

Trump referred to anyone who protested as a “son of a b----.” Trump encouraged fans to exit the stadiums if a player protests during the anthem.

He continued his attacks on Twitter during the games on Sunday.

And he was at it again on Monday morning. He chastised the players who took a knee and said it was disrespectful to “our country, flag and national anthem.”

Jones and the Cowboys came up with a coordinated response.

Jones refused to call out Trump and didn’t give a prepared speech as many owners did.

“One of the things that we didnn’t do was look at anyone’s suggestions or ideas,” Jones said. “No one’s. Not the league’s, not anybody’s idea...I wanted our actions to be louder than our words and we did it.”

Clarence Hill: 817-390-7760, @clarencehilljr

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