By Vincent L. Hall
It had to be the saddest and yet the most exciting headline ever. NBC Sports laid it all bare. “Dontari Poe becomes first Cowboys player ever to protest during the anthem!” Finally! Poe is my hero, and let me tell you why. Not as a journalist, but as a football statistics geek that grew up to be a proud Black man. This ain’t an editorial. This is a testimony. As young as age eight, I knew every player and stat of every Dallas Cowboy, from Bullet Bob Hayes to Dandy Don Meredith. My ties to the sport were as tight as youngsters are today with Madden Football. The Dallas Cowboys were my end-all. And this was back in the day when 60 percent of the games were on the radio. The NFL blacked out coverage on any game that didn’t sell out their tickets.
My uncle knew how enamored I was with football, and he scooped me and my brother Victor up. We were within walking distance of the Cotton Bowl, and I can still remember Uncle Allen passing the ticket agent $5 so we could walk through those turnstiles! Kids got in for a buck a piece, and it was “open container.” Unc had his Cutty Sark; we had prime seats, and it was a wonderful day in Sunny South Dallas. The Cowboys beat the Giants. By age 16, I couldn’t understand why my other uncle and most Black men hated the Cowboys so vehemently. Uncle Richard explained it to me in a way that made me understand. It also gave me some insight into the hell I was catching in my first year at integration.
Skyline High was host to weekly race riots…I needed a broader perspective. Uncle Richard was quiet and monotone, but a critical thinker. He said, son, if a team moves out of a stadium in a Black neighborhood, to move to a White neighborhood, with 15,000 fewer seats, and their chief objective is money, that should tell you something. I recalled how the Cowboys organization mistreated Black players who stood up. Standout athletes like TE Pettis Norman and RB Duane Thomas, two of my all-time favorites, were “severed” from the Cowboys. The former for being “too political,” the latter for being “insubordinate,” but both were traded to San Diego. Hmm! In every facet and vocation, Dallas deals harshly with Black men who stand up to the system. Jerry Jones is just the latest Massa to demand compliance from his team. I like Poe because he told Jerry’s World upfront what he planned to do, and he did it.
Dontari Poe, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 2020: “Haven’t talked to Jerry at all,” Poe said. “I hope he comes out and shows his support. … You are an owner of an NFL team—you get what I’m saying? The majority of this team are these people that are being oppressed. So even if you are not going to be in the forefront, we need to know we have your support in that type of way.” I love this dude, no matter what his stats are. It may not be as noteworthy, but his courage puts him in my ring of honor with Ali, Smith and Carlos, high jumper Rose Robinson and LeBron James.
Football has come a long way since my Cotton Bowl days. I cannot afford season ticket prices, but I stop everything when the name Dontari Poe is mentioned. This ain’t throwing shade, just pointing out how the liberation debts get paid! Somebody has to act up to get America to act right. Poe is in “good trouble.”