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FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys had a player take a knee in a silent protest in support of social justice during the national anthem for the first time ever, and team owner Jerry Jones' world didn't crumble.

In fact, Jones said he liked how the Cowboys handled the anthem and nose tackle Dontari Poe's protest before the 20-17 season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

"I thought our players showed respect to Poe's decision," Jones said on his radio show on 105.3-FM, the Fan. "They did show a sensitivity to our fans as a team, but also asked in a very sensitive way to have the help [for social justice] we hope comes. I thought our team was very real and genuine in the way we approached it."

Poe was the first Cowboys player to take a knee during the anthem.

Jones previously had prohibited Cowboys from doing anything that could be perceived to be disrespectful to the flag, mandating that his players stand with "toes on the line" during the anthem or not play.

The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May prompted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to acknowledge the league was wrong with how it handled anthem protests in the past, especially with players across the league planning to renew the silent pre-game protests in 2020.

At the start of the 2016 season, then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and call attention to other social injustices.

But it was the recent offseason mobilization of players that ultimately forced Jones to soften his public stance and give his players the freedom to express themselves without the fear of punishment.

Although running back Ezekiel Elliott said several Cowboys planned to kneel on Sunday, Poe, who had expressed his plans to take a knee in July, was the only one to do so. And he did so with the support of his teammates and team brass.

Assistant coach Rob Davis, reserve nose tackle Antwaun Woods and defensive end Aldon Smith placed a hand on Poe's shoulders as he knelt. Woods and Poe hugged afterward.

"It's just bringing more awareness to what's going on in this world -- to the racial injustices that's going on, to the oppression that's happening to my race, the Black people," Poe said in explaining his protest.

"It's not something that's going to be solved in a day," he continued. "This is letting people know and this is my way of fighting it. ... We might not see change in my lifetime. I do want to start it by doing the simple things, such as kneeling to let people know that I feel this way. I feel hurt with what's going on. I feel like everyone needs to be accountable. The police need to be held accountable. And the world needs to hold them accountable."

Poe, who is in his first year with the Cowboys, said he had no hard feelings toward his teammates who initially tried to talk him out of doing it by himself.

On the other side of the field, 15 Rams knelt, including 14 players in uniform.

"I had already told teammates and coaches that I was going to do it," Poe said. "That's where my head was at. My teammates were telling me that they didn't want me to do it by myself, alone, because we're a team. But I had told them my mind was already made up and I felt this way. And if they didn't, don't do it. Don't do it unless your heart is there like mine was. I appreciate my guys for sticking with me, for being behind me."


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