This past week, Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott made it crystal clear that he supports the stance of his team’s owner, Jerry Jones, as far as standing while the Star Spangled Banner is played before games.
Earlier in the week, Owner Jones stated that despite the current limbo between the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association on this very issue, that his position is that his team will stand “toes on the line.”
Whether Prescott, as the face of the team, came to his conclusion on his own will, or in an effort to please the man who signs his paycheck, we may never know. What we do know is that Prescott now finds himself squarely in the middle of the nearly two-year old “kneel-in” protests first initiated by former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protest police brutality within a football league that wraps itself in pro-police demonstrations and rhetoric.
To that end, Prescott became the anti-Kaep the moment that he stepped to the microphone and said: “I never protest during the anthem and I don’t think that’s the time or venue to do so…The game of football has always brought me such at peace and I think it does the same for a lot of people playing the game, watching the game and a lot of people who have any impact of the game. So when you bring such a controversy to the stadium, to the field, to the game … it takes away. It takes away from the joy and to the love that football brings a lot of people.”
On social media, Prescott has drawn the ire of those who believe that players should have a right to protest as they wish. From being called a “sell-out,” “coon” and worse, Prescott has stepped into the fray as the black face to the white owner’s conscious disregard to the underlying issue that unarmed and often non-aggressive black people are being Tasered, beaten, shot and killed by police officers who rarely are convicted of excessive use of force.
(Dak Prescott supporting Jerry Jones this past week)
Where Prescott errs is in buying Jones’s line that football “is not the proper place;” consider that over the past 10 years, nearly every team in the league has included celebration of either the military, the police–or both–in their pre-game shows. The uninformed masses among us will say “teams have always stood for the National Anthem,” but that is a lie–the NFL just entered into formal contractual agreements less than a decade ago with the Department of Defense to have these pre-game patriotic spectacles as a recruitment tool for the services. In time, NFL owners included “law enforcement appreciation” as part of the same.
So, logic would dictate that if football pre-game shows are the proper venues to propagate appreciation for military and/or police service, then football pre-game shows also are the proper venues to protest the military and/or police. Or, at minimum, owners should not force athletes who take issue with war, military or police practices to stand at attention as if they hold no issues at all.
After listening to Prescott speak, there is a part of me that can empathize with the fact that he and many other professional football players find themselves caught between the Scylla and Charybdis as far as whether to kneel, whether to stand, or whether to stay silent. These young men have worked their entire lives to become highly paid ballers and knowing that many hail from abject poverty and now find themselves earning significant lucre, I understand the fear that many have of being “white-balled” and prevented from earning their riches.
Indeed, from Paul Robeson during the McCarthy Communist “un-American activities” era, to Muhammad Ali losing five of his prime years as a boxer due to his objecting to the Vietnam War, to Tommie Smith and John Carlos flashing the “Black Power” salute at the 1968 Olympics–only to be forever marginalized as athletes afterwards–history is replete with examples of whites in power choosing to marginalize or dilute the message and earning potentials of black athletes and entertainers who speak the truth about global, systemic white supremacy and racism.
(’68 Olympics in Mexico City–Smith and Carlos give the Black Power salute)
Further proof that what is “past is prologue” is seen in how two amazing athletes, Colin Kaepernick and former 49ers safety Eric Reid, continue to remain unsigned despite being better than many who play their same position in the NFL; such shows that white supremacy reigns even among those owners whose billions in revenue are dependent upon the playing efforts of black athletes who, like their kinsmen, are only a police encounter away from being Tasered, shot or killed themselves.
This is why I struggle with “why” Prescott allowed himself to he used in this way by massa, I mean “Mister” Jones. Yes, I know that all black people do not think alike. I even know full well that even during the Civil Rights Movement, not all black people supported the direct action protests of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, his SCLC CORE or the NAACP. Yes, there were some timid blacks back then who feared that King et al would get “everybody killed” or that an angry Mr. Charlie or Missy Margaret might “fire us from these good paying jobs.” Fear is real, folks, and fear can paralyze even the best among us. I get that…
But in my estimation, I truly believe that athletes have unique platforms to foster amazing change. Such is why I beam with pride when former NFL star Anquan Boldin speaks passionately about these very issues, or when current NFL star Malcolm Jenkins waxes eloquently about the same.
(Boldin and Jenkins and other NFL players)
Brothers Boldin and Jenkins, just like Brothers Kaepernick and Reid ,”get it” and to that end, remind me of back in 1967 when Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Kareem Abdul Jabber and others closed ranks in support of Ali’s fight against his government and those Americans who called him “unpatriotic.”
(Muhammad Ali and a Who’s Who of black athletes circa 1967 after Ali was suspended from boxing due to his opposition to the Vietnam War)
I believe that if Brother Prescott and the Cowboys decided to kneel, that they would call the Jones family’s bluff and that they would NOT cut their entire roster. Still, even if they choose not to buck by kneeling, wisdom should compel Prescott–and his ilk–to simply stay silent…