One thing fans won’t see during the National Football League preseason: Pro-police decals on the helmets of Dallas Cowboys players, thanks to a league ruling blocking the tribute.
Supporters have decried the NFL’s ban on the “Arm in Arm” helmet decals, which players have worn during practices as a “display of unity” with Dallas police following the July 7 massacre of five officers by an anti-police sniper at a Black Lives Matter protest.
“The NFL had an opportunity to be leaders and advocates for change in law enforcement,” Sgt. Demetrick Pennie, president of the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation, told TMZ Sports after the Wednesday ruling.
The Cowboys hold their preseason opener Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams.
“These are our friends and our loved ones … it hurts to not have the NFL fully support us,” Sgt. Pennie said.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and players drew notice for opening training camp July 30 by walking onto the field with Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and relatives of the slain officers.
“I understand that the NFL has uniform rules and guidelines that they’ve got to follow,” said Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who helped organize the tribute, in a Thursday statement. “But that still doesn’t mean we’re not going to support and honor our community and stand arm-in-arm with them — now and in the future. It still doesn’t stop us from supporting them.”
Nationally syndicated conservative talk-radio host Mark Levin blasted the anti-decal decision, calling it “embarrassing” and “disgraceful.”
“Let me tell you why the NFL won’t do this. Anyone have a guess? I have a big guess: Because they don’t want any trouble from the leftists. From the Black Lives Matter crowd,” said Mr. Levin on his Thursday show.
“I know exactly what’s going on here. Like Hillary Clinton doesn’t seek the endorsement from the cops’ union. Of course not. The Democrat Party’s gone,” Mr. Levin said. “And the NFL top brass, like the NBA top brass, like baseball top brass, all liberal Democrats. [Every] damn one of them, pretty much.”
Others argued that allowing the players to wear the pro-police stickers would open the floodgates for a host of messages and causes.
Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said that the NFL made the “right call,” adding that there are ways to pay tribute to officers without opening “this political door.”
“It’s an unpopular opinion (not my first) but I think the NFL made the right call,” said Mr. Cowlishaw in a Thursday column. “There’s a way to honor these men without a decal on the helmet. If you allow that, do you allow decals saying Black Lives Matter? Pro Life? Pro Choice? Repeal Obamacare? John 3:16? Where does it end?
“I think there’s a place for protest and there’s a place to honor victims in different ways. I understand the NFL’s reluctance to open this door,” he said.
Critics countered out that the NFL has already allowed changes to its players uniforms in order to boost certain causes, such as wearing pink to promote breast-cancer awareness in October.
Promoting breast-cancer research isn’t viewed as particularly divisive, but backers of the “Arm in Arm” decals say honoring police officers shouldn’t be, either.
“These teams and players have a spotlight on them and could have helped bring awareness. If a uniform policy is keeping them from this, then why don’t they have every team wear the decals?” asked Sgt. Pennie.
Conservative website GOPUSA accused the NFL of harboring a double standard, saying the league had no reaction two years ago when St. Louis Rams players conducted a “hands up, don’t shoot” protest, and that Beyonce performed her controversial song “Formation” during the Super Bowl 50 halftime show.
The song’s video “features a wall with the phrase ‘Stop Shooting Us’ written on it, a scene with Beyonce sitting on top of a police car that is sinking into the water, and a shot where a child dances in front of a squad of policemen in riot gear,” said sports talk-radio host Dylan Gwinn in a Friday post on NewsBusters.
“That’s the platform the NFL gives to anti-police activists,” Mr. Gwinn said. “What do police officers get from the NFL? Not even a sticker in a preseason game.”
The Dallas Police Department reacted Thursday by saying that the decal was less important than the support of the team and community.
“We appreciate the support of the Cowboys organization and its players,” said the department in a statement. “Their concern for the families of our fallen officers, the Dallas Police Department, and the City of Dallas is what matters most, and we know that support will continue for the immediate and long term future.”