Pop star Meghan Trainor announced to her fans in a video post on Twitter Wednesday night that she’ll be the Dallas Cowboys’ halftime act for the annual Thanksgiving Day game that helps promote the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign.
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Cowboys’ vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson started the halftime partnership with the charity in 1997. The first performer was Reba McEntire. It’s one of Anderson’s signature touches with the franchise and has included acts such as Destiny’s Child, Carrie Underwood, Randy Travis, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, the Jonas Brothers, Kenny Chesney and Burleson native Kelly Clarkson.
As big as some of the acts have been, however, the most iconic moment in the 21-year partnership didn’t happen during the halftime entertainment. It came during a game. You remember, right? That moment Ezekiel Elliott celebrated a second-quarter touchdown by hopping into the Salvation Army’s large red kettle display at AT&T Stadium in December 2016.
Elliott’s impromptu celebration (we’ll get to that in a moment) was an instant hit on social media as the image went viral and helped spur a massive uptick in donations, with many fans donating $21 in honor of Elliott’s jersey number.
“Oh, my gosh. It was huge,” Anderson said. “In two days they raised over $400,000. And that was on top of everything that was normally raised.”
At the time, the NFL was penalizing players for over-the-top celebrations, but Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones told his daughter if the league fined Elliott it would just keep the Salvation Army in the news and bring in more money. The league, in a moment of common sense, did not fine him.
Anderson has been asked many times whether Elliott’s kettle hop was planned. Not really. About the only planning was Elliott taking a gander into the kettle during pregame warmups and wonder aloud with teammates whether he’d be fined. It’s a good thing he checked out the kettle beforehand, Anderson said, because those kettles have been used to set off pyrotechnics in the past. The kettle was empty and Elliott took the plunge..
“I was as surprised as everyone else,” she said.” I asked him what made you do that? And his answer was, “Oh, it was there.’ He knew what he was doing.”
And that’s what makes it so cool, Anderson said. Elliott took it upon himself to help spread the word on the Salvation Army.
“It has kind of become part of the company ethos, players doing other things for the Salvation Army,” she said. “They’ve made it part of their culture which is what makes it so powerful.”