The Cowboys are breaking records all over the place this season, so my Christmas present came early this year. But the team facilitated a bigger (and much more meaningful) Christmas miracle: a $250,000 spike in donations to The Salvation Army, which will help serve an additional 91,000 meals to people in need.
After rushing two yards for a record-breaking touchdown during the second quarter in last Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott celebrated by jumping into the oversized iconic red kettle behind the end zone. In the two days following Zeke’s leap, The Salvation Army received $850,000 in donations.
But just like every great Christmas story, this one also has a Scrooge. The NFL charged the Cowboys with a 15-yard penalty for “using a prop in a touchdown celebration.” There were also talks of a potential hefty fine for the team. I could go on and on about the ridiculousness of this rule in general, but to penalize the team for drawing attention to a charity during the holidays just screams “bah humbug.”
In response to the potential fine, Elliott said he would match it in a donation to the charity. That must have inspired the NFL’s heart to grow three sizes, because they ultimately decided not to charge a fine. Elliott, however, tweeted that he was donating $21,000 to The Salvation Army regardless, and encouraged his fans to add $21 contributions of their own, which has separately raised about $17,000.
So why was Elliott’s red kettle leap so successful in drawing attention to the cause? One word: authenticity. This wasn’t a pre-planned publicity stunt and it wasn’t sanctioned by either organization involved. Elliott has a genuine passion for this organization. Aside from his public call for donations, he and his teammates volunteered at The Salvation Army in Fort Worth on Thanksgiving. Audiences saw this and were able to relate to—and rally behind—the cause.