The Cowboys all stood for the national anthem, but the knee they took before the game was a protest of its own.
And while President Donald Trump continues to rail about players kneeling, the Cowboys said his words drew them closer together.
“It was a team thing. That’s the true definition of unity. Trump can’t divide this,” Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Sports can show a perfect example of unity. That’s our job. It’s not just black NFL players. It’s a mix of, different races. I felt like that was a clear shot at Trump sitting on the knee like that. You just can’t do that. That’s super disrespectful. We showed great unity tonight, that’s what that was for. I felt like that was needed.
“We felt like that was the best thing to do. We’re not going to let a guy like that tear us apart. Not just us but this whole entire league.”
Owner Jerry Jones has made it clear he didn’t want players doing anything but standing during the anthem, but he was there with his players before the game, and players said the criticisms from the President were galvanzing.
“This whole week, it was all about the President’s comments,” defensive end Demarcus Lawrence said. “We sat down as a team and we didn’t want to sit here and make it about one person. Everybody speaks and, you know, they say what they want to say but we’re not going to sit here and pinpoint that moment in our life’s and sit here and make it about the President.
“Even though he’s the President, we don’t agree. We feel like that was some dumba– sh– he said. I’m just being real, you know? We stuck together as a team and we wanted to show our unity today.”
Veteran tight end Jason Witten made it clear he’s always going to stand for the anthem because it’s important to him, but he thought his team made a strong statement.
“In my 15 years in this league, the brotherhood I’ve been able to form with guys from different walks, beliefs, thoughts and that’s what makes a locker room special,” Witten said. “I’m going to stand for the national anthem with my hand over my heart until the day I die. And I respect our country and love and honor the service men that represent our flag and one nation under God with liberty and justice for all. I believe in that. I believe in that wholeheartedly. I also can respect and agree to disagree. That’s what a locker room is all about when divisive thoughts come in. There are lots of different ways.
“That’s what special about a locker room because there’s a lot of different opinions, lot of different thoughts. What’s important to us and it’s important for me is that you take the high road and you show unity and you look for a better good. I think our team tried to do that tonight.”
With a three-day window before the next week of games begins, it will be interesting to see if the protests begin to cool, or whether making statements is a season-long event.