This article was one of the submissions for The Signal’s Fall 2016 opinion writing contest.
By Alexis Bell
As we approach the long-awaited sports season of touchdowns and quarterbacks, stickers are undoubtedly the last thing on the mind of the average American. However, bring up the words “sticker” or “decal” around any of the Dallas Cowboys and prepare to be on the receiving end of an impassioned rant.
Jason Witten, Cowboys tight end, initiated the design of an “Arm in Arm” decal for players to wear on their helmet to support the Dallas Police Department in light of the tragic attack in July. Five officers were killed and nine suffered injuries as a result of an ambush following a Black Lives Matter protest.
The Dallas Cowboys had been wearing the decal during training camp as a means of demonstrating unity with their hometown. Camp even began with all of the players, coaches, police officers and family of the slain officers walking on the field, arm-in-arm. While I perceive this as a heartwarming show of support, the National Football League (NFL) is extremely against the Arm in Arm decal. They told the Cowboys it violates the NFL uniform policy and would not be permitted once preseason began.
Personally, I strongly disagree with the NFL’s ruling, as I feel the Cowboys were in the midst of establishing a positive movement that could have initiated support nationwide. Not only would the decals have honored the slain and injured Dallas officers, but it would have been a tribute to all law enforcement officers across the country.
Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys, responded to the NFL’s decision.
“I’m proud of our team, proud of our team leadership, Jason Witten particularly, for really instigating and putting that together,” Jones said. “We made the statement and we’re proud of it, but we certainly respect and abide by the wishes of the NFL.”
The uniform policy is understandable, as this isn’t a backyard game of touch football we’re talking about. However, that is precisely the point. The NFL is a remarkably acclaimed organization that could have had the opportunity to garner an increased level of awareness and respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day.
Other charities and movements have received backing from the NFL for years. These include the month of October being dedicated to breast cancer awareness, an environmental program to help the league reduce waste and become eco-friendlier and “Salute to Service” that shows appreciation for the military. Other causes supported by the league include the prevention of childhood obesity, prostate cancer, domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. While these are all causes deserving of attention, it’s simply upsetting that the same can’t be done for the Dallas Police Department.
My father is a retired police officer, which is why this probably frustrates me more than the average person. I grew up seeing him proudly decked out in the blue uniform and hearing unbelievable stories from a cop’s perspective. I was always proud to tell people what my dad did for a living. Despite my naïve younger self not comprehending the risks associated with the job, I’ve always known that being a police officer is an amazing tribute to our country, the spirit of patriotism and the protection of the American people.
This is why the decision of the NFL is so unsettling. Law enforcement officers have always been worthy of recognition, but deserve even more after the calamities of recent months. The Dallas police shooting was the greatest loss of law enforcement officers since 9/11. These officers were protecting the lives of people protesting against them, yet they were the ones whose lives were taken away.
By no means am I saying we should boycott the NFL or give up Sunday night football games, but I believe this football league should have used their influential position to their full advantage following Witten’s idea. The Cowboys should have been permitted to wear the decal during the regular season and other teams should have been allowed to decide for themselves.
I want to commend Witten and the Cowboys for their considerate display of support. Lastly, I want to acknowledge the Dallas Police Department and all law enforcement officers for the sacrifices they make each day just to keep us safe. Blue lives really do matter.