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Dak Prescott is embracing his platform to encourage change

The Cowboys star quarterback is taking on social justice issues and more

Dak Prescott has had an awakening.

As the face of the Dallas Cowboys, quarterback Prescott is just now embracing every aspect of his powerful platform.

No longer does the 27-year-old co-sign everything Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says when it comes to social justice, fighting police brutality and standing for the national anthem before games.

Prescott has found his voice. More importantly, he’s using it.

In June, Prescott posted a powerful four-image Instagram post to his 1.9 million followers about the importance of fighting police brutality and social injustice.

Then he pledged $1 million to create programs to improve police training and use education and advocacy to address systemic racism.

It’s easy for millionaires to write checks. It makes folks feel good, then the millionaires disappear. We see that often, but Prescott’s words resonated because they felt authentic.

In August, Prescott wrote a letter to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board asking for Julius Jones, a Black man on death row, to be released.

Julius Jones is in prison for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, a white businessman, during a carjacking.

“The treatment of Julius Jones is the kind of miscarriage of justice African American men like myself live in fear of,” Prescott wrote, “and that is why I feel compelled to use the influence that God has blessed me with to speak up for what I believe is right and to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.”

And a few weeks ago, Prescott discussed the fear virtually that every Black man must eventually confront: flashing red and blue lights in a rearview mirror.

“There’s no reason me as a starting quarterback in the NFL should be nervous the moment sirens are turned on,” he said in August, “but that’s the way it is.”

The quarterback of America’s Team has the power to help effect change – and he’s finally willing to use it.

Two years ago, Prescott gave the impression he was a corporate quarterback, a sanitized product-pusher more concerned about his image than fighting for social justice.

It’s the reason Dallas artist Trey Wilder used eight cans of spray paint to create a 6-foot-high, 10-foot-wide image that depicted Prescott in the Sunken Place scene from the 2017 award-winning film Get Out.

Wilder painted the mural in the trendy Trinity Groves section of Dallas after Prescott said he would never protest during the national anthem.

Understand, the Sunken Place refers to someone who’s in denial about social issues concerning Black people.

That perception no longer exists.

We know because Prescott, who wore a sweatshirt after last week’s season-opening loss that read, “we all bleed the same,” stood for the national anthem before the game against the Los Angeles Rams and nobody publicly called him a sellout.

Keyboard warriors didn’t fill his mentions on social media with slurs and memes questioning whether he was “woke.” Other NFL players didn’t question his Blackness.

As Prescott prepares to lead the Cowboys on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium, folks in Dallas no longer wonder whether Prescott’s quest for corporate dollars takes away from his civic responsibility.

The reason? Prescott is a much different man from the player who stood for the national anthem before a 2017 game against the Arizona Cardinals moments after taking a knee alongside Jerry Jones in a show of unity.

And he’s a much different person from the man who spoke about the importance of having his hand over his heart and providing fans with a respite from the real world during the anthem.

“I mean, it’s bigger than I think some of us think,” he said in 2017. “It’s just important for me to go out there, hand over my heart, represent our country and just be thankful and not take anything I’ve been given and my freedom for granted.”

Then, Prescott was still figuring out his place in the NFL’s hierarchy.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (third from left) links arms with teammates Tyron Smith (second from left) and Chaz Green (fourth from left) during the national anthem before the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sept. 25, 2017, in Glendale, Arizona.

Chris Coduto/Getty Images

He was earning $530,000 – chump change in the NFL – and coming off a wretched season in which he passed for 3,324 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He ended 2017 with an 86.6 passer rating, and the Cowboys missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

By the time he made those comments about the anthem, he had seen a talented quarterback in Colin Kaepernick ostracized and star receiver and teammate Dez Bryant avoid the entire social justice conversation with a Twitter comment that said, “I’ve got a family to feed.”

Prescott listened to Jerry Jones preach compromise and respecting the flag.

So he fell in line.

But that was before the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. And before the police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back as his children watched.

Now, Prescott would probably say he’s always been against social injustice and police brutality, but that’s not the point.

Finally, he understands that the power of his platform demands his voice be heard, and he owes it to the Black community to continue speaking passionately about the things that must be changed.

Jean-Jacques Taylor, a native of Dallas, is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL for 25 years and is president of JJT Media Group.