Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant doesn’t have this thing called life down cold.
He will be the first to tell you that. He is a product of his environment.
And Bryant certainly didn’t have an ideal upbringing in the East Texas town of Lufkin as the son of a 15-year old mother who was incarcerated at 18 for selling drugs and a father who “allegedly” worked as a pimp.
Bryant has also made his own mistakes and still lets his emotions get the best of him at times.
But he is moving in the right direction after a number of stumbles early in his career.
Bryant has grown, matured and has definitely become his own man now — with his own ideas on how to live, prosper and overcome on and off the field in what has become an increasingly politicized place as a player in today’s NFL.
To that end, Bryant understands the movement among some players to follow former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s lead and sit or kneel during the national anthem in protest of social injustices and police brutality toward people of color.
He takes pride in standing and being positive.
“I’m not criticizing nobody,’’ Bryant said during a 14-minute testimonial in front of his locker after practice Thursday. “They’re free to do whatever they want. Hell, no, I’m not doing none of that (in terms of criticizing them). Their beliefs are their beliefs, and I’m not saying they’re wrong because they’re feeling a certain way. They’re supposed to.
“I’m just saying OK, I want to lead by example by doing positive. I’m not saying what they’re doing is wrong. I just have my ways of going about things.’’
Bryant has received backlash on social media regarding his position. It came to a head the last week of training camp in Oxnard, Calif., when he seemed indifferent to the cause when questioned about it after practice.
“Whatever they got going on with that, that’s them. ... I don’t really have nothing to say about that,” Bryant said at the time.
It boiled back to the top Tuesday when he was called out by ESPN anchor Jemele Hill for jokingly saying on Twitter he was planning to boycott Blaze Pizza because one of its employees said she “still hates the Cowboys” even though he gave her a $75 tip.
Hill responded with a self-described joking tweet of her own, questioning Bryant’s apparent interest in boycotting a pizza place but not joining the protest.
That Bryant doesn’t care about social justice issues when he grew up a literal African-American statistic of a dysfunctional family is folly.
The idea that African-American players are getting judged by their responses and having to justify personal decisions is wrong, too.
But that’s the position Bryant has been put in, resulting in his dishing on race relations in America.
“My whole thing about that whole situation is like people think that I don’t care,’’ Bryant said. “That’s crazy. People are entitled to their own opinion. I can’t sit here and get mad too. I’m just saying if you don’t like black people, that’s what you choose to do. But I know he might like a black person and and we on the same page, so, hey, we get along. I’m not fit to sit here and go crazy.
“Back to speaking on that issue, like I said, I didn’t mean no harm at the moment not wanting to speak on that situation or anything like that. We just came off a great practice, we’re doing great things, it’s a positive environment, we’re having a great time.
“I just feel like my real response to that is I’m leading by example. I go home, what’s happening, being positive toward people, it’s not meant for everybody to understand. It’s never going to be. Everybody is not going to get it. You’ve got to be there for the ones who want to get it, who want to understand it, who want positive surrounding them.
“I’m the first to say, my childhood was bad, it was poor, but I don’t let it weigh on my shoulders. I don’t. I try my best to become a better person from it and do the exact opposite. That’s why I try to show people, that’s what I try to show these young kids. What I love about my hometown, Lufkin, Texas, you can see them trying to do the same thing. I love and I respect it. It’s going to get us far.
“Like I said, it’s not for everybody to understand, but if we can reach as many people, we’re going to do that. Like I said, if you want real peace, that’s how you get real peace. That’s my opinion.’’
What’s most telling for Bryant at this point is that he doesn’t let those things worry him anymore. He is beyond that.
“I’ll tell you this, all the pressure I used to feel, I have none,” Bryant said. “I have no pressure. I believe who I am, I love who I am, I stand for what I believe. I believe in making people smile, that’s what I like. I come from a crazy background. No disrespect to my mom, no disrespect to my dad, what I’m doing, they didn’t teach me this. I feel like they will be the first to tell you that. I was able to have a clear page when I was growing up and I got to make decisions at a very early age about who I wanted to be and to show who I really am. I like to see people happy.
“I think people should enjoy themselves. I think people should live.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you hate me, OK, you hate me. At least I know. I’ve been through a lot of bad situations. I feel like in order to know right, you have to go through things to make a change, not do what everybody else is doing. I’m not talking about all of that stuff that they’ve got going on, I’m just speaking in general about life, period.”
And when it comes to the anthem, Bryant chooses to stand between coach Jason Garrett and tight end Jason Witten with his hand over his heart with pride and a positive outlook.
“That shows who we are,” Bryant said. “That is a positive thing. We are going to create positive. We are going to continue to create positive. That’s all that that is.”