Why the Cowboys Should Let Josh Brent Stay on the Sideline

Update: Brent, who is facing an intoxication manslaughter charge in the death of his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr., will no longer be allowed on the sidelines at Cowboys games. 
Wed December 19, 2012 9:30 pm
Associated Press | LM Otero

Update:

ESPN's Ed Werder reports that according to "team and league sources," Brent will no longer be around on Cowboys game days. Wrote Werder:

The Cowboys and officials in the NFL's offices were unaware that Brent -- who is on the reserve/non-football injury list after being charged with intoxication manslaughter two weeks ago in the car crash that killed teammate Jerry Brown -- would be on the sideline Sunday during the game against the  Pittsburgh Steelers  in Dallas. Both the team and the league agree that it was not appropriate, sources said.

Original post (7:40 a.m. December 18, 2012):

Should Josh Brent be allowed to join the Dallas Cowboys on the sideline? Now that it's become a controversial question, the answer's simple: yes, because we already know the Cowboys want him there, so to keep him out of sight and separate from the team at this point would be mere public relations, not a true reflection of the club's emotions and beliefs. 

Brent was behind the wheel December 1 when a one-car accident took the life of his old friend and teammate Jerry Brown Jr. He reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .18, more than twice the legal limit. On Sunday, December 16, the Dallas Morning News published  an extensive story  by Melissa Repko and Selwyn Crawford recreating the night of the accident.

The same day that the article came out, Brent, with the encouragement of several Cowboys teammates, as well as Brown's mother (who, as Frank Schwab of Shutdown Corner  wrote, made sure he was at  Brown's funeral  and has expressed  forgiveness), came out to Cowboys Stadium for the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was only after the TV cameras were trained on him, and his presence became a topic of discussion on CBS's halftime show, that he chose to leave. 

As Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas  wrote, "during the national anthem, [Brent] had Brown's jersey draped over his shoulder before it was placed on the bench." Watkins continued:

Coach Jason Garrett said Brown's mother, Stacey Jackson, asked the team to support Brent as he grieves, and that being around the team should be considered a positive....

"Our team and our players wanted him today on the sideline," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of Brent. "Jerry's mother (Stacey Jackson) asked us directly as a group. She said, 'Support him. Help him. He needs your help. Jerry wants that. I want that.'

"His teammates asked him to come and be down there with them, and that's where we are. I do know that certainly there's the other side of the coin (where he shouldn't be there), but this is the case of the people that he's arguably the closest to (his teammates) really wanting him around for him." 

But CBS commentator (and former NFL quarterback) Boomer Esiason was highly critical of Brent's presence. Even before the game, Esiason had  told Barry Horn of the Morning News that he thought NFL players with DUIs should be suspended. (Brent is merely on the inactive list.) "Football players are an example and Josh Brent is the worst of those examples," Esiasion said.

On the air, as the Huffington Post transcribed, Esiason also commented.

"It's the last thing I thought I'd see today. I think it's disgraceful by the Dallas Cowboys to put that young man on the sideline," said Esiason. "I spoke to a Dallas official who told me that [he was there] because of the words of Stacey Jackson, Jerry Brown's mom, at the funeral--she wanted the team to support Josh Brent. I think it's the wrong move. I think it's insensitive. I think, really, it's something that has to be looked at because it sends a really bad message."

Mac Engel of the Star-Telegram agreed with Esiason.

Not sure if I am Jerry Jones and the mother of the late Jerry Brown pleaded with me to support Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent by putting him on the sidelines I could have said no. That's a very, very difficult proposition, which is why bashing Jerry over the decision to allow Brent to stand on the sidelines during the Cowboys' win against the Steelers makes little sense.

It is also something the Cowboys simply can't do again.

The Cowboys are trying to walk the impossibly finest of fine lines between supporting Brent, while not looking like they condone his behavior. Brent was driving drunk when he flipped his car that left teammate Jerry Brown dead. Brent is out on bond.

The Cowboys have tried to be supportive; Brent has been around the team's practice facility, but having him stand on the sidelines is too much. It is too visible. It's not as if there is some debate or a gray area about Brent's actions.

But there is one gray area: despite his apparent culpability, (especially because he has a prior DUI, having spent 30 days in jail in college) Brent's still innocent until proven guilty. Once that changes, whether he does or doesn't show up at Cowboys Stadium will be a moot point. If the team really has his back, they'll also visit him in jail.

As Cowboys coach Jason Garrett  told Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News :

“The important thing is the idea that we really, really want to support him,” Garrett said. “I don’t stand up here, and nobody in this organization stands up here, and says, ‘We condone drunk driving.’ That’s not what we’re saying. We’re supporting a member of our family who really made a mistake, and made a mistake he’s going to have to live with for the rest of his life and we want to help him in way that we can to get through this and support him.”

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