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Op-ED: Dontari Poe: A Lone Star in a Dark Galaxy

Dontari Poe, of the Dallas Cowboys, kneeling in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season on Sept. 13. 
Photo Courtesy of The Dallas Cowboys

By Joshua Heron, Staff Reporter

America’s favorite game returned this past week and as the National Football League (NFL) resumed for its 101st season, following the first game of the season on Sept. 13 — this year would be unlike any other. With a disease rattling the bodies of many, football Sunday’s weren’t watched from the stands, but from couches of millions amid COVID-19. However, the story that caught the media’s attention was not the fans’ absence, but the nation’s current fight—the fight against another pandemic; injustice.

With great anticipation, it was no surprise that NFL players would take a stance against systemic racism to kick-off the season. They did so by locking arms, staying in the locker room, and kneeling. Although knees moved across the television screen all day Sunday, one specific knee stood out. 

Dontari Poe, nose tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, received the attention that his 52 other teammates did not. Known as America’s “Favorite Team”, the Cowboys are known for its patriotic, white, idealistic-minded owner, Jerry Jones, its chaotic fans, and the big blue star logo on the team’s uniform. 

Poe, who signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys coming into this season, wore that star on his jersey, but he was also a star on the field. However, the star in his heart shone alone this past Sunday, with a whole galaxy against him and this one knee on “America’s Favorite Team” went against America’s favorite action, alienating the voice of the Black community.

Coming off a stellar season with the Carolina Panthers, the two-time pro bowler was a force to be reckoned with. He signed with the Cowboys not just for a new opportunity, but because as Howard is to HBCUs, the Cowboys are the mecca of the NFL. 

As a solidified star of the league, being picked off the free-agent block was a must for Poe, but when he signed for a deal of $10.5 million over the next years, he knew his status as a player and his stance as a Black man needed to be genuinely expressed.

Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said on the Dallas Morning News that “there is no question in my mind that the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys will stand for the flag” just three years ago.  

Jerry Jones abused his power with the “I give you the bank, you give me what I want” mentality. 

The solo resistance that Colin Kaepernick initiated in 2016, with kneeling during the national anthem to condemn police brutality, was resurrected 4 years later, as one man knelt alone with his teammates standing tall.

The statement made three years ago by Jerry Jones On the Dallas Morning News could have potentially haunted the hearts of many Cowboys, but many Black players refused to speak on the issue, which is understood for job security. However, if they are being alienated because of their fight for justice as Black men, America has made no progress since the Civil War. 

Job security shouldn’t be determined by protests displayed on the field, but solely by performance on the field. Furthermore, maybe standing was their way of fighting because one isn’t required to fight like one another, but to fight with each other. However, if fear fueled their decision, then how much do we value our lives. Our job is not to conform to the “white man’s” rules, but to transform the unjust white men’s hearts with unity.

In recent years, kneeling became a symbol of black resistance, but others fail to acknowledge its new purpose. As Colin Kaepernick stated in an interview with NFL media, “I’m not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” 

Unjust white men must realize the action of people taking a knee or not, lies in their hands. Black players wouldn’t have to kneel if they weren’t given a reason to. 

Jerry Jones and many others view kneeling as opposing the opportunity to play football, but in reality, those who kneel, do so to oppose the oppression given.

The oppression that has dried the hopes of many, like a grape’s transition into a raisin, cannot only be addressed with the act of stretching a ligament. 

Kneeling does not fulfill the requirement of justice, action does. The action does what a knee can’t do, reach the hearts of others.

If bending one knee on a field is a problem to the oppressor and bending one knee on a man’s neck can cause a national uproar, then maybe we should go on two knees and cry to the man above. Even then, he would probably tell you that justice starts with action, and the very things we pray for are already done, but we as people choose to stay still.

Dontari Poe decided staying still was no longer an option.

Poe, along with many others, are playing a game they love while realizing the social injustice occurring in our nation is not a game to be played. As fans booed, Poe had to remind himself that the game of football includes wins and losses, but life carries on. However, in the game of justice, a loss cannot be afforded.

Poe said in an interview with The Undefeated, “I already told my teammates and coaches that I was going to do it. That’s where my head is. Don’t do it unless your heart is there like mine was.”  Simply put, he was convicted. 

Even if Poe did not react to his convictions, someone else on the Cowboys would’ve because conviction rests on everyone’s heart, but the courage to step out on his conviction is a torch only a few have the fortitude to carry. Sure, doubts may have raced through the heart of Poe, but if one gives doubt their power to lead their drive, then the drive will die — but when one’s drive passes the aura of doubt and closes its door, opening the door to deliverance. 

As Kaepernick looks back and reaps the fruit of his act of protest years ago, I assure you Poe will look at 52 knees in the coming months along the same line that he first bent on, even if it remains a topic many people wish to move past.

When asked about his stance on Dontari Poe taking a knee in an interview with 105.3 Dallas, Jerry Jones said, “ They [The Dallas Cowboys] showed respect to Poe’s decision…and show sensitivity to our fans as a team.” 

He seems to care more about the fans’ concerns than the reoccurring injustices in America.  Quickly, Jones moved on from the topic and that is where the problem lies. Until white men can acknowledge these issues and not undermine the feeling of the oppressed, they will never see us as people in front of them. 

And to the system known as America, attempting to drain our dignity, allow me to explain to you the horrors Black people experience and our response, in terms related to your “favorite game”. 

You say field goal, but we know your goal is to put us back on the field. The phrase that channels the power of your voice box, “touchdown” is alluding to the fact that you will not stop touching until we are down. We try to regain possession with an onside kick but as you know, the onside kick rarely goes back to the side who attempts it. As you see us closing in, you attempt a Hail Mary to close us out. There’s no coincidence that the same God behind the virgin you hail birthed peace while you continue to birth pain and problems. Regarding the quarterback, it is not funny that you give us a quarter to carry your businesses on our back, but it’s time that we throw the ball to the wide receiver named justice, and run to gain the points that draw us closer to victory. 

Today, it’s the two-minute warning and justice is in the red zone, and the oppressors could try to stop her, but she has made it too far down the field. Two minutes later the game will be over, and the final score is 2020 -1619. An unorthodox scoreboard, but a meaningful one, as this is our year when Black people no longer carry the weight of America’s sin.

Rearranged those numbers are historical, 1619 – 2020. 1619 is the introductory date to injustice for African Americans, a headstone, while 2020 is the year justice is being claimed. 

As for the lone star Dontari Poe, he refused to give in to his teammates’ idea that he should not kneel alone. He is no normal star, but the northern star. This northern star does not only shine but shines above all other stars, which means it’s the only one that everyone sees. 

We are all stars and we may stand alone, but oftentimes the thing that stands alone shines the brightest in a galaxy waiting to be lit by the obedience of one-star doing what it was destined to do.