With the NFL seeing a new wave of protests against racial injustice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans, one of the game’s greats is saying he would join them.
When asked if he would take a knee during the national anthem, Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill Jr. he would.
To explain why, Smith recalled his famous rebuttal against Terrell Owens. When the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver ran onto the Cowboys’ star at midfield after a touchdown, Smith responded by running to the star after his own touchdown and slamming the ball down.
“Yeah, I think I would do something, just as much as I ran out there and defended that star when T.O. did what he did,” Smith said. “Why not? If I can defend the star, I definitely can defend the right for everybody to have equal justice.”
Smith later added that he has been a victim of social injustice, including a pair of incidents in Dallas:
“If I can defend the star, I can take a stand for social justice,” Smith said. “I have been a victim of it. It’s not like I am talking because something happened to George Floyd. Something happened to me more than one time, a couple of times it happened right here in Dallas. I’m talking from experience, not something I read in a book and saw on CNN.”
Smith reportedly recalled attending his son’s high school graduation at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and expressing pride when his son, current Stanford running back E.J. Smith, took a knee during the commencement ceremony in June.
Emmitt Smith calls out Jerry Jones
The issue of player protests has been particularly tense in Dallas, where Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had previously taken a hardline stance against the act. In 2017, Jones threatened that any player who takes a knee would not play.
Jones has softened that stance since Floyd’s killing, to the point that Cowboys defensive tackle Dontari Poe took a knee during the anthem at the team’s season opener and suffered no repercussions.
Smith took issue with how Jones has handled past protests, saying that the issues being protested are bigger than the flag:
“Jerry needs to cut it out. He needs to cut it out,” Smith said. “Don’t distort the message because of the flag. It is bigger than the flag. That flag ain’t hurt one soul as it waves. It is there as a reminder of what many men and women, Black and white, died for. Just like those Super Bowl trophies, they are there as a reminder of what you have done in history that was good. They are not there just to be flashy. They are there to remind each and every player, team and coach that comes and works for the Dallas Cowboys organization why you are here.
“That is what that flag is a symbol of, why we fight for freedom and what we stand for as Americans. And we don’t stand for this B.S. What is the difference between injustice and bullying? You see somebody get bullied, are you supposed to keep walking down the street? No. You support that piece, but you won’t support justice for people getting killed in the streets for no apparent reason.”
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