The Case for Sticking With the Cowboys This Season

This could come as a shock from the newspaper that offended so many snowflakes with its claim that Globe Life Park and the Rangers are North Texas' safe space for conservatives, but the Observer sincerely believes that you should stick with the Dallas Cowboys this season.

Despite controversies that have many progressives claiming they're "done with the NFL," quitting pro football means giving in to the same forces that make the league so frustrating and conflicting in the first place. Not watching when you want to means that team owners such as Jerry Jones, the New England Patriots' Robert Kraft and the Houston Texans' Bob McNair and the president they support win this battle in the culture war without a fight. 

There's a reason an overwhelming majority of owners agreed to a policy change in May that requires all team personnel on the field during the national anthem to stand as it's played: appeasing President Donald Trump, his followers, and others who confuse protesting police violence and racial inequality with disrespect for America. Appeasing them is perceived to be more important to the league's bottom line than pissing off progressives who empathize with the protesters.

"Tell everybody, you can’t win this one." — President Donald Trump to Jerry Jones

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Jones made it crystal clear during the deposition he gave as part of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's collusion lawsuit against the league.

"Tell everybody, you can’t win this one," Jones recalled Trump telling him during a phone conversation as the battle over player protests heated up, according to The Wall Street Journal. "This one lifts me."

When Trump attacked Kaepernick and his fellow protesters in September 2017, the president believed he'd found a winning issue. Talking to Jones, he seemed to make it clear that he was willing to use the power of his office to attack the league if the NFL didn't do something to make Kaepernick stop. Thanks to the NFL's deals with ESPN, Fox, CBS, NBC and DirecTV, the league is guaranteed $54.65 billion in TV revenue through 2022. Trump can threaten that windfall, but protesters doing something else with their Sunday afternoons can't.

The NFL's new anthem policy isn't something the owners would've done on their own. It's something they created out of fear of what the president might do. While that isn't exactly courageous, it shouldn't be unexpected, either. Professional sports owners, especially NFL owners, are oligarchs. They didn't get to where they are by thumbing their noses at the few people who wield power over them.

They also shouldn't be able to decide who gets to participate in America's cultural institutions.

Much was wrong with the NFL even before the anthem decision. The NFL's lack of guaranteed contracts is appalling, given the physical rigors of pro football. The NFL draft violates the labor rights of former college players, essentially forcing them into a sort of indentured servitude if they're selected, and the league's salary cap might be the United States' most widely accepted form of socialism.

The NFL is also wildly entertaining, showcasing all the strength, agility and speed that human beings are capable of producing. It's a source of community for fans, a default easiest thing to talk about with a new acquaintance and the source of hours of cheap entertainment. Thanks to pressure from fans and players, the league is finally taking real steps to address player safety; the kickoff rules instituted this spring are a clear first step to getting rid of the game's most dangerous play. That might not be happening if fans who care about their favorite players weren't watching.

Continuing to watch and supporting athletes representing our cities and chasing their dreams is the way forward, rather than being forced to the sidelines by the whims of the president. Going to games and acting up at the stadium by sitting for the anthem or showing pro-protest signs is going to have a larger effect on the public consciousness than any decline in ratings, which, it's worth mentioning, will likely be wiped out and then some as legal sports betting expands after a recent Supreme Court ruling to strike down a federal ban.

Outside of living a monastic life and giving up sports entirely, fans looking to ditch the NFL are left with the NBA, which has a draft, a salary cap and a policy that requires players and coaches "stand with a dignified posture" during the anthem, or pro baseball, long the most conservative of American sports. College sports get more out of players for way less than the pros and have their own scandals and corruption to deal with. FIFA, the organizer of the World Cup, and the International Olympic Committee are simply corrupt.

Since the beginning of sports' modern era — which we'll stipulate as the opening ceremonies of the 1896 Olympics in Athens — cheering for one's favorite teams and athletes has always required a little hypocrisy and a willingness to overlook the arrogance and politics of the bosses employing them. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and DeMarcus Lawrence are going to put on a show for the Cowboys this year. You should watch it. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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