INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Updated at 9:09 p.m. with reaction from Cowboys fans.
Before the Cowboys opened the season and the Rams christened their $5 billion new stadium, the focus was how America’s team would handle the national anthem.
Defensive lineman Dontari Poe was the only Cowboys player who kneeled, making him the first Cowboys player who has ever kneeled during the anthem.
Cowboys running back Zeke Elliott said he expected there would be some players who decided to kneel, while others would stand, but the team would be united in the way they would treat each other in the aftermath, “we’re all supporting each other and that’s what’s going to bring us all together, he told the Pro Football Talk podcast Tuesday.
"I think everyone in the locker room feels that we’re going to get support from ownership, coaching staff and from each other. I think everyone is going to feel free to express themselves however they choose to.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it known leading up to the game that his opinion of how players should handle the anthem hasn’t changed.
"Everybody knows where I stand, and there’s no equivocation there at all,” Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM.
However, Jones absolutely reversed field away from his “toes-on-the-line,” hardline stance regarding how he will handle players who decided to express themselves by protesting against social injustice during the anthem.
“I would expect the Cowboys show great sensitivity and I hope fans will receive it,” Jones said. “However each individual presents it, that it’s a genuine ask for help because right now in our society, we got some things we need to address.”
The Cowboys owner came under fire for his silence on social justice issues in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May. Cowboys players, including offseason acquisition defensive lineman Dontari Poe, called out the owner to make a comment.
When Jones eventually did talk, at the team’s virtual press conference to open training camp, he repeatedly called for grace, from all involved.
“I have nothing to prove as far as where I stand with the flag. I have nothing to prove as far as where I stand with support of my players,’' Jones told reporters. “What I do want to show and want all of us to be a part of is a word called grace. Grace not only in our actions but in our understanding.‘'
While The Star in Frisco did not host a traditional watch party for the Sunday night season opener, some fans still gathered at Dallas Cowboys headquarters to watch the game on the jumbotron outside the Ford Center or in nearby bars.
Nesly Cardenas sat outside in lawn chairs with family and friends.
He said he didn't have a problem with Poe's action.
"I feel like everybody has a right to respect the things they want to respect," Cardenas said.
Victoria Navarro was with Cardenas. She said she supported a player's right to demonstrate. She said she empathized with Poe.
"I understand other people get upset, but it is what it is. I feel like we should all unite in times like this," she said.
Bryan Saenz was watching the game with a small group of friends.
“You know it’s not like they’re disrespecting the anthem. They're still listening to it," he said. "They’re just deciding that they’re going to kneel down to show there are other problems going on."
"I really have no problem with it," he said.
Cowboys players had not previously challenged Jones edict to stand during the anthem.
During the 2017 season before a game against the Arizona Cardinals Jones kneeled along with the entire Cowboys team before the anthem. It was billed as a show of unity for the entire team. But the way they unified on this day was altogether different.
And the owner says here's how they will move forward: “We’ll do it by showing grace to the millions who are sensitive that the flag is the best of America,” Jones said. “The flag is a symbol of that. We also recognize the times we’re in and the need for social justice.
“There will be no angst between me and the players. And no angst between me and the fans."