Every year at the annual Thanksgiving Day game, the Dallas Cowboys have a glitzy halftime show and put big Salvation Army kettles in AT&T Stadium. It is part showmanship that we have all come to associate with Jerry Jones and the team, but it has a far deeper meaning and is just part year-round efforts to give back to Arlington, where the stadium is located, and the larger Dallas-Fort Worth community. Much of it is spearheaded by a member of the Jones family: Jerry’s daughter, Charlotte.
Charlotte Jones is far less known to the football public than her father and brothers, Stephen and Jerry Jr. But she is one of the highest-ranking female executives in the league, with the title of Chief Brand Officer of the Dallas Cowboys. She has clearly inherited her dad’s entrepreneurial spirit as that well-known Red Kettle campaign was her idea, according to official website of the Cowboys.
In 1997, Charlotte Jones devised the Red Kettle Kickoff, the annual launch of the Red Kettle Campaign, which raises awareness for The Salvation Army’s holiday efforts alongside halftime artist entertainment during the Cowboys’ nationally televised Thanksgiving Day Game with over 35 million viewers.
25 years ago we partnered with the @SalvationArmyUS to kickoff the National Red Kettle Campaign at halftime of our @dallascowboys Thanksgiving Day game..and now it has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition! This year we’re excited to have @lukecombs perform tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/w0GkbJXWRK— Charlotte J Anderson (@cjonescowboys) November 24, 2021
When people see the Red Kettles at AT&T Stadium or outside local businesses with the bell ringers, they tend to think of feeding meals to needy families during the holidays. But the Salvation Army has a much bigger mission — and the efforts by the Cowboys have become a major way of funding it.
Since 1997, the Salvation Army has served more than 703 million people through programs that address homelessness; food insecurity; drug and alcohol abuse; human trafficking, and more. In that same time period, and with the help of the Dallas Cowboys, the Red Kettle Campaign has raised more than $2.75 billion to aid in that work.
That is a significant impact. For the Cowboys, however, it was just the beginning, as they have continued to find other ways to not only alleviate problems, but to invest in the future. One important focus is on youth — to try and equip them to succeed in life — that has led to a tie-in with the NFL Play 60 program. Like everything the Jones family touches, they have done so in a big way, the Cowboys site explains:
For over a decade, the Cowboys have partnered with The Salvation Army to open Play 60 Fitness Zones in Arlington, Plano, Garland and McKinney. In 2011, the Cowboys created the Fitness Zone and rebuild at The Salvation Army in Arlington, alongside chairman of the board, Emmitt Smith, as part of the construction of the North Texas Youth Education Town — a lasting legacy project of Super Bowl XLV with a matching million dollar gift by The Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation. The Gene and Jerry Jones Family North Texas Youth Education Town opened in 2013, providing educational, athletic and arts programs to other services to hundreds of Arlington youth and their families. Since its inception, the YET annually participates in Play 60 Week, stadium tours, mentorship programs and more.
The cachet of the Cowboys has been a valuable asset in the team’s charitable efforts, as they made bold moves to acquire partners in the business community, including large corporations such as Albertsons and UnitedHealthcare.
It’s Thanksgiving! So much to be thankful for & the @salvationarmy is on top of the list!— Charlotte J Anderson (@cjonescowboys) November 23, 2021
Celebrating our 25yr partnership with @SalArmyNTX & the amazing work they do to help those who need it the most.
Thanks @Albertsons for your generosity & @dallascowboys legends! pic.twitter.com/TObHQQf01b
It is an ever-growing effort, with the most recent partnership drawing in an iconic Texas brand, Whataburger for the Project Tomorrow program, which provides scholarships for gifted and talented at-risk middle school and high school students.
The fundraiser was part of Whataburger’s Feeding Student Success program, a companywide initiative to support students across the communities the brand serves and resulted in a donation of $200,000, announced at halftime of the 2020 Cowboys’ game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
This is not, however, a Thanksgiving story. That is just the most visible part of the team and Jones family involvement in the community. The ongoing efforts also include the members of the roster each year, most notably in the spring during the weeks between the draft and training camp.
Each year, the Cowboys partner with Reliant Energy to host Reliant’s Home Run Derby charity baseball competition, also benefitting the Salvation Army. Veteran players take turns hitting home runs while rookies, shagging baseballs in the outfield and hosting youth from the Salvation Army Youth Education Town in the stands. Since 2012, Reliant and the Dallas Cowboys have raised more than $330,000.
The efforts also seek to respond to the ever-evolving challenges that arise. Partnering with the Salvation Army gives the Cowboys an ability to respond quickly when disaster strikes. They have stepped up to help raise millions for hurricane, tornado, and COVID-19 relief.
Fundraising is important, but for Charlotte Jones, there is also her position as a role model. She is an entrepreneur and an influential voice in the overwhelmingly male world of the NFL. In March of this year, she was able to speak about her journey into football with other women who are carving out roles in the sport by leading a panel titled “Breaking Barriers,” which aimed to inspire more young women to find opportunities in football.
Cowboys executive vice president Charlotte Jones recapped her journey to the Dallas Cowboys in a special virtual panel celebrating Women’s History Month called “Ladies First: Breaking Barriers” powered by Character Playbook and EVERFI.
Once Jones became an integral part of the Dallas Cowboys organization, she probably never thought she’d be teaming up with a member of the Washington Football Team. But Jones found herself in a virtual meeting Tuesday with Washington’s running back coach, Jennifer King, the first African American woman to be a full-time assistant coach in the NFL.
In addition to Jones and King, the panel held over Zoom also included Laura Okmin, broadcaster for NFL on FOX and founder of GALvanize and Sarah Fuller, a senior at Vanderbilt who became the first woman to ever play in a “Power 5” football game last season. It was moderated by MJ Acosta, the host of NFL Total Access, the first Afro-Latina host at the NFL Network, and an Emmy-winning journalist who advocates for representation and equality in journalism.
While not everyone can be the daughter of a billionaire NFL owner, other members of the panel show that there are multiple paths. And despite how she got there, Jones continues to be a true force in the NFL.
Recognized as one of the most powerful women in sports, Jones was named Chairman of the NFL Foundation in 2012 where she is responsible for spearheading the NFL efforts in youth football participation, health and safety, and community outreach. She was also the first female to serve as Chairman of The Salvation Army’s National Advisory Board from 2010-2014 and has been actively involved with leadership roles for a wide range of national and local organizations.
Fundraising and charitable work are part of all NFL franchises. No doubt the Cowboys would have been involved in programs without Charlotte Jones’ emphasis, but the size and scope of what they do is impressive, and she has played a major role in that. It is only going to grow.