Many people drop dollar bills into Salvation Army kettles. Ezekiel Elliott went a little further Sunday — by throwing his entire body into one.
The stunt was made possible by the placement of an oversized kettle, part of the Dallas Cowboys’ annual fund drive, behind the Cowboys’ end zone. Elliott took a second-quarter handoff for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then took the opportunity for a memorable peekaboo celebration.
Elliott earned a 15-yard penalty for using a “prop” in a touchdown celebration and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones dared the league to fine the team for its kettle placement.
“I think the Salvation Army should give him the highest award,” Jones said after the game (via ESPN). “My dream would be for the NFL to really fine me a lot of money and I’ll take them to the Supreme Court and we’ll get the Salvation Army more attention than anybody can get them. So let’s go.”
The NFL will not, though, be making the Grinch-like move of fining Elliott, with spokesman Brian McCarthy officially announcing that the “kettle hop” was okay. Don’t think that means that the league is loosening its standards, even though Dez Bryant thinks it’s just fine to put the fun in “fundraising.”“Why not let it be legal? We’re just having fun,” Bryant said. “Let’s not make it the No Fun League.”
Coach Jason Garrett explained that his displeasure extended beyond the penalty’s possible effect on the game.
“You have to understand what’s legal and what’s not legal. You can jump into the stands in Green Bay, but you can’t jump into a Salvation Army bucket in Dallas,” he said. “You’ve got to be careful about snow angels. All of these different things that we do. So we have to be more mindful of that. I’ve got to coach that better.”
And, if the league office had demanded that Elliott pay up?
“I’m going to match whatever they fine me and donate it to the Salvation Army.”
The Salvation Army was pretty pleased with all the attention, even if Elliott’s conduct was deemed “unsportsmanlike” by NFL standards. In an unexpected subplot, the charity’s approving tweet led to a social media spanking of ESPN’s Darren Rovell.
Elliott’s act brought to mind a former Cowboy likewise known for his end-zone celebrations. In 2006, also in a game against the Buccaneers, Terrell Owens caught a pass for a touchdown, then deposited the ball into the kettle.
The Cowboys are closely tied to the Salvation Army’s red kettles. Since 1997, the team’s annual Thanksgiving game has served as the kickoff to the campaign, which runs through Christmas Eve and aims to provide meals and shelter for families and toys for millions of children.
“The visibility and true partnership the Dallas Cowboys have extended to our organization for the past 20 years to mark our most crucial fundraising season is something The Salvation Army is extremely grateful for,” Lt. Col. Ron Busroe, a Salvation Army official, said last month in a statement.
By briefly disappearing into a giant kettle on national TV, Elliott added that much more visibility.