Beyond the wonderful photo op and videos that went viral, Dallas police Chief David Brown issued a plea to the Dallas Cowboys that is likely counter to Jason Garrett’s internal desires to be quiet and boring.
“Don't be silent,” Brown said. “Let your voice be heard. All communities need your voices.”
Now more than ever, amen.
They may not be qualified for the responsibility and they may not even want it, but the Cowboys are role models who have the power to evoke change, draw attention to issues, and at a minimum start a discussion.
On this one, they all should get in the game because this is not a game. It’s public shootings, innocent lives lost, families and communities wreaked.
The only way you get anywhere is to start by being uncomfortable and the Cowboys players have the power to make us uncomfortable.
It was the idea of tight end Jason Witten to have Brown, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and the 13 family members of four of the five Dallas police officers who were murdered on July 7 to walk arm-in-arm with members of the Dallas Cowboys out to the field Saturday afternoon for the first official practice.
It was, as you might imagine, a somber moment and reminder No. 8,342,323 that a single football game is not that big of deal when compared to a single life.
Rawlings told the players, “Play for Dallas like you have never played before.”
This is not the first time the Dallas Cowboys have been asked to alter the identity of a city, or boost the morale for a region and its citizens.
The shooting of the five Dallas police officers is our region’s darkest moment since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza in 1963. Long before the Texas School Book Depository became a tourist attraction, the image of North Texas was bruised for nearly a decade because of the shooting of JFK.
It wasn’t until the success of the Cowboys, plus the popularity of the TV show Dallas, did that reputation change.
What happened on July 7, 2016, is not like Nov. 22, 1963, but it’s a national tragedy that’s created a negative identity about our home. The Cowboys do have an opportunity to change that, and at a minimum should heed the call of the police chief and speak up.
Whether it’s the Black Lives, Police Lives, All Lives, or whatever else lives, it all matters and the Cowboys have the power to speak up and out on this issue. We can disagree on the specifics, but we should all agree something is amiss and not working.
Like the 1960s, there is an opportunity for the Cowboys, and more specifically the individual players, to be something more than simply ballplayers.
“It’s a special privilege to be a part of the Dallas Cowboys, and I think that is a gateway to special and unique experiences to all of us as players and more than anything else it leads to a responsibility,” Witten said. “The responsibility to generations of young kids that look up to us as role models, and the responsibility to our community.”
It was Charles Barkley who once famously said, “I am not a role model” in a Nike TV commercial. He added, “Parents should be role models. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”
No one thinks an athlete should raise your kids, but whether we like it or not famous people like Barkley, Witten and so many others are role models. They are visible, they are wealthy, they are famous; these are qualities people aspire to attain.
“We have a platform,” Witten said. “We are difference-makers. We understand that.”
Sports has evolved from the days of Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and other activist athletes of the ‘60s to the days of the strong-corporate silent-types such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
Today’s athletes like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Richard Sherman and others have been far more willing to voice their opinions on issues that should free others to do the same.
They are not elected officials, but people listen to Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Jason Witten and the rest. They are not all English majors, but they don’t require a publicist or a manicured statement to make reach an audience.
They just need to be real, raw, candid and unafraid. Their individual voices, and stories, have the power to reach far more people than that of a cop or a mayor.
Witten is right, there is a responsibility because a little kid is more apt to hear Dez Bryant than Mike Rawlings.
“For me, sports is a moment where it doesn’t matter where you come from, what color you are — you’re a team,” Rawlings said. “To me, sports is a great metaphor for what we need to be as a society today.”
We should at least start by trying like hell.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.