The Salvation Army got an impromptu spokesperson on Sunday night when the Dallas Cowboys played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium. When Ezekiel Elliott rushed for the first touchdown of the game, he took a jump right into a huge, red Salvation Army donation kettle that was sitting right outside of the end zone. Elliott’s touchdown celebration ended up not earning him a fine, but it did cause a huge spike in donations for the charity.
According to ESPN, in the first 12 hours following Ezekiel Elliott’s jump into the Salvation Army kettle, the charity took in $182,000. Lt. Col. Ron Busroe of the Salvation Army said that amounted to a 61 percent increase in contributions compared to the same amount of time from Sunday night through Monday morning last week.
Initially, there was speculation about whether there would be a fine for Ezekiel’s touchdown stunt. He was flagged for excessive celebration, and that usually brings a fine of $12,154. Elliott said after the game that he had planned to match the fine with a contribution of his own to the Salvation Army.
It turns out that he won’t be fined for jumping in the red kettle, and it all worked out because the donation increase has brought a lot of publicity to Elliott himself, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Salvation Army. On Monday, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tweeted that Elliott would not be fined for his touchdown celebration.
“Let’s give Zeke credit for that. It is certainly fun,” Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones said on Monday. “We have those kettles there because we do want the visibility of reminding everybody, certainly at this time of year, how doing the most good is putting a dollar in that red kettle. To have gotten that attention in front of probably 20 million or so people last night for the Salvation Army was just wonderful.”
Even though the big red kettle was the perfect size for Ezekiel Elliott’s touchdown celebration, it doesn’t look like the stunt was preplanned or even expected. After the Cowboys beat the Buccaneers in the Sunday night thriller, Elliott told reporters that his dive into the red kettle was not scripted. On Monday, Busroe confirmed that while the Dallas Cowboys had a longstanding relationship with the Salvation Army, the red kettle was not placed in the end zone with the intent of having Ezekiel Elliott or anyone else jump into it. It was suggested that the amount of exposure from the touchdown celebration was worth roughly $4 million in advertising for the charity.
Salvation Army officials have said that the uptick in donations was a “welcome surprise.” According to Busroe, up until last week, Salvation Army donations were down 16 percent compared to last year when the non-profit pulled in a record $150 million. Typically, about 6 percent of all their donations come from online.
Due to the excessively cold temperatures throughout the U.S. as the holiday season and the end of the year approach, the Salvation Army expects donations to slow since many people won’t be venturing out in the cold and just as well, many of their bell ringers won’t be out collecting donations.
“We needed this boost. It’s certainly the most we’ve been talked about in the five years I’ve been here,” Busroe said. “We were trending on Twitter last night.”
Ezekiel Elliott has confirmed that he will still be matching what he would have paid in fines to the NFL and donating it to the Salvation Army. After Elliott’s entertaining and lucrative touchdown celebration, Dallas Cowboys beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 26-20 victory.
[Featured Image by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]