By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
The brand of the Dallas Cowboys, among the greatest in sports, was forged during the 1970’s. Dallas won less than 10 games only once, missed the playoffs but a single time, played in five Super Bowls and won two championships during the decade of polyester, disco and Watergate.
But the story wasn’t just the winning. The Cowboys carried themselves with professional elegance. Tom Landry, Dallas’s stoic, classy and fedora-adorned head coach, roamed the sideline with palatable regality. In Roger Staubach, a squeaky-clean Naval Academy graduate and Heisman Trophy winner, Dallas essentially had Captain America playing quarterback. They had the sleekest uniforms, most famous cheerleaders and the coolest nicknames – “Doomsday Defense” and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. The iconic single blue star on side of their helmets came to symbolize the team’s fame as much as the state of Texas. The franchise even transcended sports: The television show Dallas included a flyover of Texas Stadium.
By the late 70’s, all of it – the threads, the logo, the characters, the panache and the winning – earned Dallas the moniker “America’s Team”, an outrageously grandiose handle that was impossible to dispute, even by Dallas’s staunchest detractors.
Everything had changed by the late 1980’s. After several losing campaigns, the Cowboys were sold to Jerry Jones, Landry was fired and a new business model was implemented, one that has proven to be less dignified. For the last 26 years, Dallas has been an extension of Jones’s prodigious, Trump-like ego. It worked early on, to the tune of three Super Bowl championships, but the last two decades have mostly fallen victim to Jones’s failure to arrest his confidence in himself as supreme football pooh-bah and his lust for victory, a primal urge that has birthed many dubious decisions.
The “Jones Way” led to the hiring of Jimmy Johnson and the acquisition of players like Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Larry Allen and Darren Woodson. That’s good Jerry. Bad Jerry, the one of more recent vintage, jettisoned Johnson after a fatal ego-struggle, foolishly traded for wide receivers Joey Galloway and Roy Williams, recklessly acquired malcontent Ryan Leaf and willfully gambled on Terrell Owens and Dez Bryant, two emotional volcanoes.
Win at all cost. Talent trumps character. Social responsibility is a minority aspect of decision making. That’s Jerry’s style. In the ultra-competitive, testosterone fueled world of professional football, it’s a widely accepted approach. However, in signing DE Greg Hardy, Jones crossed an admittedly gray line.
In July 2014, Hardy was convicted of assaulting Nicole Holder, a former girlfriend. Court testimony revealed the incident’s brutality. Hardy tossed Holder on a bed full of guns, threw her into a bathtub, dragged her around by her hair, slammed a toilet seat on her arm and threatened to kill her. The post-assault photos of Holder are extremely disturbing and consistent with an unconscionable beating. Hardy’s sentence was overturned on appeal after Holder failed to show in court. There is strong indication a civil settlement was reached.
Hardy spent all but one game last season on the commissioner’s non-exempt (suspended) list. After the court findings, Hardy was initially suspended for 10 games this year; the suspension was reduced to four games on appeal.
Dallas, with its typical disregard for anything but talent, inked Hardy to a one-year deal in March. His brief, but predictably eventful Cowboys career, has included a sideline shouting match with Bryant, insensitive comments about Tom Brady’s wife and no evidence of remorse for assaulting Holder. Jones has defended his employment of Hardy, stumping it as a deserved second chance. He even spun Hardy’s passion as evidence of his “leadership.”
To expect anything different from the myopic, self-serving Jones would be foolish. But what about the rest of us, those who pad his capitalistic pockets? What say you, sponsors of the Cowboys? And you, Cowboys fans? Are you comfortable supporting the star and, indirectly, Hardy? It’s a personal choice, I suppose. But let’s be clear: Dallas is no longer America’s Team. Not this Greg Hardy-version. Domestic violence is too important and the NFL carries too much social weight for this Dallas team to represent America in any way.