By David Moore
The Dallas Morning News
Dak Prescott, his image under attack and his behavior questioned for defying shelter-in-place directives, issued a statement in an attempt to mitigate the damage.
The Cowboys quarterback didn’t apologize in a release distributed by his representatives late Tuesday afternoon. It was more of a clarification of the photos that surfaced on TMZ and how he classified the gathering that took place at his home Friday evening.
While not defiant, Prescott disputes the report that he hosted a party for 30 people, taking pains to say it was a dinner for less than 10. The Prosper Police Department issued no citation or warning after it was called to the home that evening and was unable to verify the number of guests.
Stephen Jones, the Cowboys chief operating officer, weighed in on the matter several hours before Prescott issued his release, saying the club had spoken to the quarterback and running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was pictured in the photos.
“I understand and accept that there are additional responsibilities and media scrutiny that come with being an NFL quarterback, but it is very frustrating and disappointing when people provide completely inaccurate information from anonymous sources, especially now,” Prescott said in his statement. “To set the record straight — I know that we all need to do our best to socially distance and like everyone else, I am continuing to adjust to what that requires, but the truth is that I was with fewer than 10 people for a home dinner — not a party — on Friday night.”
Photos from the gathering published by TMZ show Elliott and several others in the background, a spread of food and a photo of a table setup for a sit-down dinner with the name Natalie in the middle.
The meal was catered by Nick and Sam’s. A representative for Prescott said the table in the photo was not in Prescott’s home and was from a room set aside in the restaurant that will host the event once the quarantine is lifted.
A source close to Prescott said the event was a birthday party for the quarterback’s sister, Natalie Prescott-Smith, a revelation designed to minimize the backlash Prescott has received.
The problem: a friend of Prescott’s named Natalie has a birthday on April 12, two days after the gathering. When the source was confronted with that information, the source apologized and admitted the party was for the friend.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in an order issued last month, said any gathering of people who don’t live together is off limits no matter the size. The directive, currently in place through April 30, states, “every person in Texas shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contract with people who are not in the same household.”
The Prosper Police Department referred to the Centers of Disease Control in issuing this statement:
“The Prosper Police department did respond to the Prescott residence after receiving a report of a potential ‘party.’ The officer was unable to verify the report of a ‘party’; therefore, he just reminded the resident of the current CDC guidelines — to include social distancing.
“The Town of Prosper continues to seek voluntary compliance with regard to all applicable local and state disaster orders. As needed, we will consider additional enforcement actions/options. As always, our primary concern is the safety and health of all our residents.”
Jones made an appearance on 105.3 The Fan, the team’s flagship station, Tuesday and was asked about what took place at Prescott’s home.
“We certainly have communicated with Dak and Zeke, and I think they are certainly aware now of how sensitive these situations are,” Jones said. “And I don’t think you’ll be seeing that anymore.
“They are certainly guys we have the utmost respect for, and I certainly know they understand the sensitivity of the situation we’re in today. It’s certainly very serious and certainly know they understand.”
In the days leading up to the event at Prescott’s home, the quarterback was seen on social media on two separate occasions after completing a workout or in the midst of a workout with Elliott and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant in violation of shelter-in-place.
“I am very sensitive to the challenges we are all facing and making sure to support the first responders and medical personnel and everyone else putting in long hours,” Prescott said to conclude his statement. “We are all at a time when we need to keep educating ourselves about the importance of health and isolation during this pandemic and I will continue to make sure to do my part by following the guidelines until we are approved to start returning to normal activities.”