The Dallas Cowboys have joined the social justice movement as a part of the NFL players coalition.
Defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford and cornerback Byron Jones spent Tuesday with the Grand Prairie Police Department, participating in a ride-along, talking to kids at a park, seeing the youth boxing program and talking face to face with officers about real life issues and perceptions.
“We were very fortunate to have members of the Dallas Cowboys organization visit our city yesterday to learn more about our Community Policing initiatives, particularly involving our youth,” Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye said in a statement.
“The players had requested a low-key opportunity to engage with our police officers and community members to better understand our community engagement efforts. We appreciate the players taking such a genuine interest in their community and for their interaction with our police officers and youth toward enhanced understanding and trust-building through the formation of relationships.”
The players requested a low-key approach to Tuesday’s engagement because it’s all part of a bigger program the Cowboys are formulating with the help of vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson.
It presents a different narrative than the one seemingly assumed about players on the Cowboys regarding the social justice movement because of their unwillingness to cross owner Jerry Jones’ ban against kneeling during the national anthem.
Jones has long said he would support anything the players wanted to do in the community to tackle the issues.
“We’ve been wanting to speak out for a long time but you have to do it the right way,” Crawford said. “When you’re planning something, you have to plan and execute the right way, especially when it’s something so big ... and we want it to be big and we want it to reach a lot of people. It’s something you have to plan out and you don’t drop it until it’s right.”
Crawford said more is coming in the Cowboys’ efforts to engage with the local police and the community about the same issues that prompted former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to start his silent protest of police brutality and racism during the anthem in 2016.
Crawford said Tuesday’s experience was eye-opening on a number of levels and it was great to see community policing in action.
“Yeah, definitely. A lot of people we pulled up on in the different neighborhoods knew the officers and knew about them and knew what they were doing and seeing what they were doing on the weekend,” Crawford said.
“Those guys are definitely involved in their community. I can speak for Grand Prairie, ‘cause that’s who we were with. But they definitely were involved in their community. A lot of them know each other and it was cool to see that. I didn’t know that was going on. That was awesome to see.”
The real-life experience did have a few tense moments for Crawford.
“It’s different when you think about a call that is called into a police officer. You are thinking about it. You hear about it. When you are actually in the situation you have to go. I am like ‘wait, wait, wait. Where are we going? Why do we have to go to stop a fight? I am in the car.’
“It’s more real life when you actually have to go into those situations. ... You know me, I walk into a restaurant nervous. In that situation, I was definitely nervous.”
The day began with them stopping off at a basketball court and talking to a few kids about their neighborhood and how they felt.
They then witnessed a traffic stop of a guy with a felony warrant followed by a trip to the Grand Prairie Police Youth boxing gym.
“They bring the youth in from the streets,” Crawford said. “This gym was popping. Kids were going. They were grinding in there and working hard. Hitting the bags. Coaches were coaching them up hard.
“Teaching them the right things in how to go about life and just responsibility. Being accountable to things. They said the right things to those kids. Obviously, that happens daily there. It was good to see. It was good to see that.”
They finished with a bonding session with the officers about their issues and their perceptions.
They ended on common ground.
“We talked about some of the things we grew up thinking about them and what they are perceived as,” Crawford said. “And the reality of how we are all men and women in uniform. And once we jump out of the uniform we are all families. We go through the same thing.
“Once we jump out of the uniform people want me to be this football player but I am not. I am a dad. I am a husband. That is what I am going to be outside of it. And that is what I want to come home to.
“You don’t want to be injured on the field. You don’t want to have a season-ending injury or life-altering injury, just like they don’t. We just talked. We just chopped it up. It opened my eyes to a lot.”