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Dontari Poe is first player to kneel during anthem

INGLEWOOD, Calif.—Defensive tackle Dontari Poe became the first Cowboys player to kneel during the national anthem.

Before Sunday’s game against the Rams, Poe kneeled on the Dallas sideline as defensive line teammates and coaches put hands on his shoulder in support.

Defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Antwaun Woods stood behind Poe.

Previously, no Cowboy had kneeled in the more than four years since Colin Kaepernick debuted the gesture to raise awareness about racial injustice and police brutality.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was among the strongest voices opposing the form of peaceful protest in its early days. He had insisted players stand, toe on the line, at attention.

Jones softened his tone in recent weeks.

“That’s the great thing about America: Everybody has a difference,” Jones said Sept. 4 on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “If our players are there, they are sensitive to and respect what America is as it relates to the flag. I’ll assure you that. I’d hope that our fans—and I think they will—understand that our players have issues that they need help on. They need help from the majority of America.

“They need help.”

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Dontari Poe kneels during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

Quarterback Dak Prescott said “to force your opinion and your perceptions on somebody” isn’t what America needs in 2020.

“Right now, it’s about listening,” Prescott said. “We’ve heard Mr. Jones talk about grace and sharing grace and having grace with players in what they want to do. If I had it my way, that’s exactly what we’d do is express ourselves individually but love and support one another collectively.”

More than a dozen Rams kneeled.

All Cowboys stood at the end zone line during the pregame rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” widely labeled the Black anthem. Only two Rams players, ILB Micah Kiser and OL David Edwards, were on the field.

Follow Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

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