FRISCO, Texas – It would be a mistake to assume that one person speaks for everyone.
Just in general, that's a good rule of thumb. It applies even more so to members of the Dallas Cowboys – arguably the most visible football team in the world – at a time of social turmoil and massive upheaval.
One of the Cowboys' newest members, Cameron Erving, put it succinctly.
"It's been tough. A lot of guys don't really want to talk about things because of the culture of the world," Erving said on Friday. "You don't want to get crucified for making a statement that other people don't agree on, but everybody has their opinions and everybody has their feelings."
Many members of the Cowboys' roster and organization have been asked some personal questions in recent days. The police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., has reignited the debate that overtook the country in June after the death of George Floyd. Sports leagues around the country have amplified the conversation with walkouts, cancelations, postponements and other gestures.
Asked about it Friday morning, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones expressed his desire that the Cowboys be part of the conversation.
"I want our team, and I want them to be emboldened to be a part of change," Jones said. "The dramatic change isn't going to happen overnight, but I want our organization and our players to play a part in the movement of making this a better place in this country."
As for the team, the discussions have been ongoing. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that, while players voiced their desire to practice, there have been many conversations – on a teamwide and an individual level – about how they're feeling and where things are headed.
"This is an issue of high concern," McCarthy said. "It's on their hearts. It's not only personal to their specific family or where they're from, but it's something that they're bothered by it. The energy of how do you move this opportunity into action has really been the primary focus."
Speaking to reporters, it is evident that Erving feels strongly about the subject. And given that he was gracious enough to share some of his own experiences, it's easy to understand why.
"I grew up in South Georgia, so I've experienced racism first-hand from the time I could walk. I didn't necessarily know what it was, but I felt it," Erving said. "I grew up and I got older, I saw it in different ways. I've been called the N-word within the last year and a half, two years – and it's 2020, 2018, whatever. So it's just something that's in me, honestly."
Erving said the Cowboys' conversations have been productive and understanding. He credited McCarthy for opening the floor to the players and for being willing to listen to perspective – an ability that is all too often lacking in these situations.
"What you don't know, you don't know. And what you don't know, you can learn. That's just something that I try to live by," Erving said.
Where things go from here remains to be seen – and it's not Erving's responsibility to speak to that publicly. The Cowboys don't currently plan to stop practicing, as their season opener is already a mere two weeks away. But it certainly sounds like this dialogue will continue within the team, honestly and proactively. The hope is that the same can be said for outside the locker room, as well.
"Hopefully my words can help people who don't understand to take a step or take a walk in my shoes," Erving said. "Like I said, you can feel how passionate I am about it. I want people to feel this. It's just very important that we continue to have these conversations, because nothing is going to happen if we don't."