OXNARD, Calif. -- Jason Witten wanted to help Dallas heal after a sniper killed four police officers and a Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer earlier this month.
“That’s what everybody in our organization felt: to represent our community and give back to it," Witten said. "Our game is special because it can bring a community together. It can lift you up when you’re down.”
Witten’s genesis of an idea, combined with some help from team vice president Charlotte Jones-Anderson, helped create a special day for four of the families representing the slain officers, along with Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas Police Chief David Brown and several others. The family of slain officer Michael Smith graciously declined to attend the brief ceremony Saturday before the Dallas Cowboys officially opened training camp with a practice.
The players walked onto the field in four groups, with each player arm-in-arm with another player, a member of the slain officers’ family, a coach or a police officer in a sign of unity. Once everyone was on the field, they huddled around Rawlings and Brown.
“I talked about there being two things you can do: You can be part of the problem by being silent or being complicit, or you can be part of the solution by having a voice, by lending your role as a professional athlete to this cause,” Brown said. “I think that people need to hear, from all parts of society, a discussion on race.
“It’s the toughest discussion that we all have, but it’s part of the root cause of some of the problems that we see in some of our communities. I really do believe that sports [and] entertainment can have an influence on young people if they were able to strike the right chord in the way they talk about some of these issues.”
Jones-Anderson spoke to Rawlings last week about the possibility of coming to training camp along with the families of the victims, eight Dallas police officers and two city council members.
The players will also wear an “arm in arm” decal on the backs of their helmets to symbolize the unity between the community, citizens, Americans and the police officers who protect them. The Cowboys have been given permission to wear the decal during the preseason and anticipate wearing it during the regular season.
“It is just priceless to have a sports team -- a major sports team like the Cowboys -- show this kind of support for law enforcement,” Brown said. “It’s showing support for the men and women in blue who sacrifice their lives every day to protect our citizens.
“I’ve got chill bumps. I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan. I’m a three-generation Dallasite, so it means a lot. It’s overwhelming for me and the families, who are all Cowboy fans. This is special, and we’ll never forget the Cowboys organization stepping up in our time of grief.”