Don’t be fooled, NFL players. And don’t you worry, God-fearing, flag loving, NFL fans.
This “national nightmare” will all be over soon, which is only good depending on where you sit. Or the color of your skin. Or the content of your character.
As witnessed by their 28-17 win against the Arizona Cardinals, the good Cowboys are back, and they are leading the way to restore order to a less demonstrative NFL.
The NFL’s unification march collectively conducted this week by our favorite teams was a nice show. When Hall of Famer Jerry Jones dropped to a knee, arm-in-arm with his players — before the national anthem — on Monday night in Arizona the latest episode reached its conclusion.
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America’s Team has spoken, and it went PC.
“Our players wanted to make a statement about equality,” Jerry said after the game. “They were very much aware that that statement when made, or when attempted to be made, in and a part of the recognition of our flag can lead to not only criticism but also controversy.
“It was real easy for everyone in our organization to see that the message of unity and equality was getting pushed aside, or diminished, by the controversy.”
Jerry is 1,000 percent right on this.
This particular protest was a previously-bargained agreement between Jerry and his players. What they delivered was a non-protest, protest designed to placate fans who want their favorite heroes to be active in social issues without offending those ticket-paying customers, and corporate sponsors, who insist they must honor Lee Greenwood and “respect the flag.”
The Cowboys and the rest of the league agreed to collectively disagree with President Donald J. Trump, who continues to thrive as The Great Unifier, and Galvanizer of Protests across the country.
What we saw on Monday night before the Cowboys game in Arizona is not going to repeat itself in Week 4 of the NFL season. Of course, our Tweeter in Chief is always just 140 characters away from starting another protest rally somewhere, so we can’t set our calendars just yet.
The reason Jerry did not join his fellow NFL owners with statements condemning Trump’s “SOB” rant at those kneeling players is because he is readily available to make countless statements on virtually every subject after games. Monday’s actions, and words, should be sufficient.
Just know he did not want to do this.
For Jerry to do this he recognized that he could not maintain his preference of staying away from politics, even though he contributed to the Trump campaign. Even though he had no problem participating in the political process when it came to raising support for the tax hike vote in Arlington to help build his stadium.
The Cowboys’ dip into the baby pool of activism on Monday night is about as much motion and noise as they will ever produce in this area. The only reason they did it was because of the players.
“There is no need for us to talk about unity and equality and have 60 percent of the company, or country, mad at you,” Jones said in Freudian slip if there ever was one, “because you are not perceived to honor the flag. This is the way to do both.”
The players wanted to do something, and “ownership” had no choice but to relent because it would have been a terrible look to be the only franchise not to engage in the latest war on Trump’s off-the-cuff, populist rhetoric.
In his post-game talk with the media, Jerry never did say Trump’s name, nor refer to him as the President or Mr. President. Jerry wanted to stand by his players without offending anyone who might want to buy a ticket, or a sponsorship.
The player’s priority was to participate, while the organization’s priority was to avoid the flag. To avoid the anthem. To avoid the controversy.
“The flag and the anthem represent a fight for nearly 250 years, for the ideals of our country,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said when I asked why the priority was to avoid the flag. “Many players around the league said this has never been about the flag. It’s been about equality. It’s been about rights. This country is not perfect. The flag represents the fight.”
(Jason Garrett can sound so good when he’s truly unplugged.)
The flag represents protesters. Because that part of the fight of the ideal.
And we have missed all of this because the protest movement has become about a collection of misguided narratives and themes perpetuated by an insatiable media and a collection of pundits who realize the louder they scream the more money they will make.
Once you introduce the flag, you’re done. You bring in “the troops” and “patriotism” and the national anthem, forget it.
A kneel is a harmless act of free speech. Get over it. There are no guns or knives here. No one is making any threats. Free speech is one of the best parts of America — a part of the fight — even the parts of speech you don’t like.
The reason this all began was because a mediocre quarterback in San Francisco wanted to protest the unfair treatment of black Americans by the police. And for no other reason.
Jerry and NFL owners aren’t arm-in-arm with the protesting players who are kneeling. If they were, Colin Kaepernick would be on an NFL roster.
He’s not because the owners don’t want to deal with it, which is their right. Because their primary concern is not their players’ primary concern.
Trump forced Jerry’s hands on this, and this is what we got: A bunch of players and their bosses, locked in arms, as part of the show.
This part of the NFL’s show, The Protest, had never been louder or visible until this weekend. Don’t expect this type of unification in the future, not on this level.
The NFL players saw what happened to Kaep, and they are smart enough to do the math. I can’t blame a single one of them.
So don’t worry, it will all be over soon.
And that’s fine, depending on where you sit. Or the color of your skin. Or the content of your character.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof