I cannot believe I am saying this. But here I go….
Jerry Jones did it right.
There, I said it. As a lifelong Washington Redskins fan, that was hard to say. I have had to fight the impulse to just ignore what he and the Dallas Cowboys did tonight. But unfortunately, my dang integrity had to rise up and smack me around a little.
I have ruthlessly attacked the National Football League (NFL) for the last three weeks. And it has pained me to do so, because NFL games were a huge part of my childhood. Every Sunday afternoon, things quieted down, we grabbed some chips…and sat down as a family and watched football.
For 45 years, since I was 9 years old, I watched EVERY Redskins game. When deployed with the military or I couldn’t watch the game live, I had it taped and watched the games later.
My father and I began watching together in 1972. It was a family tradition I continued after he died in 1996. Redskins games have always been a way for me to continue to connect with him, even though he is gone.
This is why it pained me at the start of this season when I decided I was done with the NFL. I turned off the TV, put away any Redskins paraphernalia in my home…and made plans to do other activities on Sunday afternoons.
Why would I do this? Well, as a 21 year U.S. Army infantry veteran, I could not in good conscience support a team that allowed football players to disrespect my flag and the National Anthem.
As a veteran, that flag means much more than it does to most. I have friends who have died and were carried under that flag to their final resting place. In regards to the National Anthem, if anyone understood what it ACTUALLY says and what it actually is talking about, they would see that such disrespect is an affront to the men and women who died at Fort Henry in Baltimore at the hands of the British. As well as to those who have fought and died for liberty for all of our American history.
For those who are serving or have served, the American flag and the National Anthem affect us on a visceral level. They are ingrained into our very fiber, our soul. They represent all we must give and all we have given. They represent that we have given our word that we are willing to fight and die for America.
Because of this, when NFL players began sitting, taking a knee, pumping fists during the National Anthem, veterans and fellow patriots feel like we have been punched in the gut.
Now many of the players are saying that their protest isn’t meant to demean veterans or our sacrifice. But no matter their intent…the result has been to divide us. You see, they knew protesting during the National Anthem would be controversial. They knew it would create harsh and sharp reactions. To say they didn’t intend to demean us, our country, our values, and principles on which they are based is well…disingenuous at best.
On Sunday, the entire NFL turned into one grand clown show. The players’ and owners’ actions sealed the deal for most veterans and patriots…and the jersey burning, ticket trashing began. Counter-protests against the NFL and its players began. Veterans and patriots began to pull back their time and money from the NFL.
One bright spot in all of that was Captain Alejandro Villanueva, a decorated combat vet and former Army Ranger. CPT Villanueva is now a Pittsburgh Steeler, and while his team remained in the tunnel, he stepped out to show respect to the flag, the National Anthem, and our nation. This was seen as such a positive act by most Americans, that CPT Villanueva’s Steelers jersey immediately rose to become the top-selling NFL jersey in the entire country. This just goes to show that the silent majority is still behind our flag and those who honor it.
All of this just steeled my resolve that I was done with the NFL. I decided that I would continue to reach out to other veterans and patriots to encourage them to also walk away from the NFL for good.
Then, damn it, in stepped the hated Jerry Jones (all Cowboys are hated in my home…we learned that early from George Allen!). And, while Hell may be freezing over, in this household, we applaud him and the Dallas Cowboys tonight.
What did he do…what did the Cowboys do?
During the pregame activities for the Monday Night Football game, the Dallas Cowboys took a knee (including their owner Jones). But this time, instead of disrespecting the National Anthem like other teams had, Jones and the Cowboys took a knee before the Anthem. And then, when it was time for the National Anthem to be sung, the players stood respectfully.
Jerry Jones helped his team (and if they were smart, the rest of the NFL) find a way for the players to use their platform to push for the concerns they have, for the owners to be able to allow them to do so, and for the National Anthem and the flag to remain unsullied.
Let me say this: I am not in agreement with many of the issues the players are arguing for (I believe some of the things they are bringing up are not the problems they are making them out to be), but the fact that they found a way to do this right is encouraging to me.
As a veteran, while they were disrespecting my flag and my Anthem, there was no way I could hear their concerns. I didn’t want to even give them the time of day. By the Cowboys not protesting during the National Anthem, I am now in a position to be able to actually listen to what the protestors are saying. Maybe now we can find common ground or find a way to deal with the issues that are actually facing those Americans for whom the protestors purport to represent.
This is a start. And if the players, coaches, and owners are smart, they will follow the lead of Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys. I pray that they do as it may be a template for all of us to try to find a way to close the divide that’s separating us.
I may never, ever say this again. Tonight, I salute the Dallas Cowboys.
Author: Jay Shepard
Jay Shepard is the Executive Editor of Committed Conservative.
Jay is currently a security analyst and business owner. Jay served 21 years in the U.S. Army, mostly in the infantry. Jay also served as an Army inspector general for four years.
Jay has a Bachelors of Science in Political Science from James Madison University, and a Masters of Public Administration (concentration National Security) from Troy University.
Jay has run several successful state-wide political campaigns, and has been an outspoken advocate for the Constitution, the core American principles, the Convention of States, and military policies.
Jay’s passion is everything to do with the founding of our country, and with baseball. Jay has coached over 30 years at the youth to prep levels.