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Should Cowboys’ Owner Jerry Jones Explain 65-Year-Old Racism Photo?

Dec 11, 2022 02:00PM ● By Mac Johnson
Jerry Jones present day and Jerry Jones as a teenager at racist protest

When I was a kid growing up in Atlanta, it was almost impossible to not be a Falcons fan. I was going through grade school in the height of “Michael Vick Mania”. I witnessed multiple pregame hype videos of Vick to the tune of Outkast’s “I Like the Way You Move”, the famous “Michael VIck Experience” Nike commercial and countless highlights of Vick defying gravity and appearing superhuman. I even watched the city split apart at the seams as police raided his Virginia home on April 15, 2007 and discovered a dog fighting operation.

You’d be surprised to know that I managed to bypass the Atlanta indoctrination and have somehow been supporting the Philadelphia Eagles for my entire life, the only team I ever loved. No matter how excited my peers were about Michael Vick’s latest unbelievable feat, I was never swept up in the hype. I believed that my team was “right” and theirs was “wrong”. Even when given opportunities to go to Atlanta Falcons games, I declined because I felt that it would go against my true fandom.

When it comes to going against the grain, me being a lonely Eagles fan in Atlanta doesn’t quite meet the scale of growing up a White man in the segregated south and supporting integration. Growing up on the wrong side of local fandom doesn’t meet the scale of growing up on the wrong side of civil rights, one deals with touchdown runs, the other dealing with racism.  But there are still parallels between my rejection of indoctrination and Jerry Jones’ curiosity of it.

Photograph of desegregation protest at North Little Rock High School in 1957 capturing then 14 year old Jerry Jones, Image Credit: William P. Straeter/AP

In the last few weeks, a picture has resurfaced showing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in attendance as a crowd of White people sought to intimidate six Black students from integrating a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Although the picture was taken more than 65 years ago, it left many wondering if that moment became 65 years of water under the bridge for Jerry Jones or 65 years of doing the work to understand why even being in that space at that time holds the banner for the prejudice and oppression Black people are still dealing with today. Was he “just there” or is that a representation of who he was? More importantly, is that still a representation of who he is today?

The immediate backlash of the resurfaced image created a media firestorm. From national outlets, news stations in Philadelphia to days of unrelenting commentary on social media, the debate continued about Jerry Jones’ character as well as the statute of limitations on his activity in the photo. So much so that Stephen A. Smith, a famous ESPN pundit and journalist with many ties to Philadelphia, felt the need to address the situation directly on his show “First Take”.

“I’m very very fond of Jerry Jones, but I’m pissed off because he does not deserve what just happened,” said Smith.

Stephen A. dedicated an entire segment of his show to discuss the matter. He even posted a portion of it on his social media platforms to ensure his direct message could be properly relayed.

“I don’t have a problem with the photo, if he was 30, 35, 40 years old, that’s different,” said Stephen A.“But we’re gonna lean on somebody when he was 14, born and raised in the south and we’re gonna pick it up 66 years later to bring up him not hiring a Black coach? I think that’s low.”

Stephen A. didn’t stop there. He even called into question those who are seeking for Jerry Jones to explain his involvement in that picture decades later.

“Are you ready to explain what you were doing when you were 14?” Smith finished.

Lamentations Chapter 3 verses 22 and 23 speak of new mercies being given to us every morning. If that holds true, then how many new fresh starts does a man receive in 65 years? Jerry Jones has had an unfathomable number of opportunities to see the error of his ways and become a better person, but it’s ridiculous to dismiss the questions of fans and NFL players as just the latest social media outrage. Right now, the NFL is still investigating Brian Flores’ lawsuit claiming discrimination against him, a Black man seeking a head coaching position. And let us not forget the league is only six years removed from Colin Kaepernick’s benching, blackballing and subsequent settlement with the league.

Earlier this week, Lebron James spoke of media coverage or lack thereof surrounding the picture. James compared it to the being constantly pressed for questions surrounding Kyrie Irving and a social media post where he promoted a documentary that many claim was antisemitic. Lebron addressed what he believes to be a different standard of accountability for the Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones versus other Black athletes.

LeBron James, Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

“When we do something wrong or something that people don't agree with, it's on every single tabloid,” said James. “It gets all the news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker; it’s asked about every single day, but it seems like the whole situation with the Jerry Jones photo, even though I know it was years and years and years ago, it has just been buried under. I’m surprised that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

We cannot ignore that the most impactful “racism” of today is when thoughts and ideas are shared in private. When white spaces, board rooms and decision-making bodies are not held accountable for who they are at their core and what they believe, then marginalized groups are left to deal with the mistreatment. I won’t say Jerry Jones “is” what he represents by being in that photo, but if there’s proof that he stood with those people in the past, then it’s fair to ask for proof that he stands against those people now.

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 Mac Johnson is a Emmy nominated documentarian, award winning television producer and writer whose sole purpose is to provide a platform for underserved communities. He is a proud HBCU graduate, having studied communications at Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University. Mac is also an active member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and looks for community outreach and volunteering opportunities in his spare time. He is a die hard Eagles fan, vegan food connoisseur and a lover of all things hip-hop, gospel and jazz.

You can connect with him on social media:
Twitter: @mac___78
Instagram: @mac___78
email: [email protected]

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