Dallas Cowboys helmet as player takes a knee
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As countless NFL players take part in protests during the national anthem this season, Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith believes he would be joining them in support by taking a knee.

Smith, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys, backed the players who are raising awareness for racial inequality and calling for social justice.

Emmitt Smith says he would have kneeled during the national anthem

When the Cowboys faced the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1 on Sunday Night Football, defensive tackle Dontari Poe was the lone player to kneel during the national anthem. If Smith was still in the NFL, he believes Poe wouldn’t be alone.

The NFL’s all-time leading rushing and Hall of Famer is part of the league’s NFL Votes campaign, an initiative to support voting and get more people involved in the election process. During an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he revealed the actions he would have taken if the social justice movement occurred during his playing days.

“Yeah, I think I would do something, just as much as I ran out there and defended that star when T.O. did what he did,” Emmitt Smith said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Why not? If I can defend the star, I definitely can defend the right for everybody to have equal justice.”

Coming into the season, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones worked with the players to engage in discussion and find a way they could address systemic inequalities and racism in the United States. While Jones has called for national reform, following recent incidents of police brutality, he also expressed concern for how fans would react to the Cowboys taking a knee.

Smith, who is very aware of everything going on around the country, doesn’t credit his beliefs toward the killing of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor by police officers. Instead, it’s based on his own experiences, including in Dallas.

“If I can defend the star, I can take a stand for social justice,” Smith said. “I have been a victim of it. It’s not like I am talking because something happened to George Floyd,” Smith said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Something happened to me more than one time, a couple of times it happened right here in Dallas. I’m talking from experience, not something I read in a book and saw on CNN.”

Smith’s comments come amid a time when the NFL is changing its stance on protests during the national anthem. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement this offseason and the league pledged $250 million to combat racial injustice.

While many players and teams support peaceful demonstrations during the national anthem, the reaction from fans has been very different.

NFL ratings: NFL saw massive dip in viewership in Week 1

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in teams either barring fan attendance or allowing fewer than 20,000 fans to attend games. With stadium revenue practically evaporating, the NFL is more dependent on revenue generated from advertising and television this season.

Unfortunately for the league, things don’t look promising. Amid the 2020 election cycle, player protests and the ongoing NBA Playoffs and Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NFL’s tv ratings are taking a hit.

  • NFL Kickoff Game: The 2020 season kicked off with the Houston Texans facing the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite the marquee matchup, the game suffered a massive drop in viewership.
  • Sunday Night Football: Arguably the biggest NFL game each week, a Week 1 battle between the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams saw a staggering hit to the ratings. Despite one of the most popular teams in sports playing, viewership dropped 16.1% from a year prior.
  • Monday Night Football: Even a doubleheader with new broadcasting crews couldn’t spare the NFL. The tv ratings for both MNF games crashed, capping off a rough week for the NFL.

Ultimately, the NFL will likely overcome this and still sustain great success. If millions of fans continue boycotting the league over player protests, it could prove costly for the NFL’s looming negotiations with broadcasters.

Matt Johnson
NFL, MLB & college football writer for Sportsnaut. Graduated from San Diego State University with BA in Journalism, 2019. Grew up in Sacramento, now based in Indianapolis. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection, With the First Pick