The Cowboys "found a way to show solidarity without disparaging the national anthem" last night in their own form of demonstration to "publicly oppose" President Trump's criticism of NFL protests, according to a front-page piece by Brandon George of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Sources said that the Cowboys "met several times over the last three days ... to carefully consider their options." Plans were "still being finalized up until a few hours before kickoff." Cowboys players, coaches and execs "came onto the field before the national anthem and stood arm-in-arm before taking a knee." Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, members of his family and coach Jason Garrett "were among those on the field." The Cowboys then "went to the sideline as the U.S. flag stretched across the field" and locked arms for the anthem. Fans at Univ. of Phoenix Stadium booed when the team took a knee. Garrett said, "The objectives as much as anything else was to some how, some way to demonstrate unity and equality and do so without anyway involving the American Flag and the national anthem. It took a lot of conversation of how to do that." Before Monday, no Cowboys player had "publicly protested during the national anthem," as Jones and Garrett "consistently made it clear over the last year they believed everyone should stand." Sources said that the Cowboys "met at least three times to plan how they'd respond to Trump's comments." The Jones family was also "involved with the plans" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/26). In Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. in a front-page piece notes the final plan "didn't come together until about an hour before the game." Jones "talked to the Cardinals ownership to let them know what the Cowboys planned to do and to discuss logistics" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/26).
CARDINALS ALSO MAKE A STATEMENT: The AP's John Marshall noted the Cardinals also had their own "symbol of unity," as players gathered "along the goal line arm-in-arm during the national anthem." They were joined by team President Michael Bidwill, his family and GM Steve Keim (AP, 9/25). ESPN's Lisa Salters reported Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson on Saturday went to coach Bruce Arians and “asked if the players could do something in response” to Trump's comments. That "started a series of conversations" with the Cowboys, and Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald reached out to Cowboys TE Jason Witten "to see if the two teams could join together in a show of unity." Conversations between the teams "continued throughout the day ... but ultimately the decision was made that there would be no joint team response" ("MNF," ESPN, 9/25). Arians after the game said that the decision to "lock arms before the anthem was a decision made by the players." Arians: "We had one meeting about it and it was their decision." He added that he was "moving forward from the demonstrations." Arians: "That's all over with. I coach football. I'm not a politician" (ESPN.com, 9/25).
Players returned to the sideline after kneeling and stood with locked arms for the anthem
CAN'T PLEASE EVERYONE: YAHOO SPORTS' Charles Robinson wrote the Cowboys' "nuanced attempt to honor won’t please everyone." Some will say you "can’t kneel before the anthem and stand for the anthem." But the Cowboys "chose to try and find the tricky space that everyone could live with." In doing so, they "sent a message to those who would still find weakness or flaw in the attempt." Robinson: "Saying something along the lines of, 'We’ve chosen common ground. If you don’t like that, be damned'" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/25). However, in Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes, "America's Team has spoken, and it went PC." What the Cowboys 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’ "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" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/26).