I’m not sure why LeBron James bothered to tell the truth about Jerry Jones and that 1957 photo, which is less a story about Jerry and ’57, and more a story about you, me, and now. I’m not sure why he cared, even if he is-sorry, too though he is – correct. Who is listening to an NBA player, even one as smart and insightful as LeBron, on this matter?
Not the people he would like to listen to. It might be you? Only you know.
News: LeBron James wonders why he wasn’t asked about Jerry Jones’ desegregation photo
We loved it when LeBron dunked on Kyrie Irving, didn’t we? Kyrie screwed up by promoting a movie based on blatant anti-Semitic rhetoric on his Twitter account, and LeBron came out and said what we were all thinking: there is no place for hate. That was a message that almost anyone could accept, black and white, for reasons I shouldn’t have spelled out…but I will:
A portion of the population is tired of the ugliness in our midst and appreciates when someone as empathetic and influential as LeBron James speaks his truth. Another part of the population really appreciated the Black-on-Black criticism, because it allowed that segment to pile on Kyrie and feel safe.
You knew which websites, television networks, and social media accounts—even which local radio blabbers—were going to take a beating with LeBron. Did you also know who would hear LeBron and think: Damn, he’s right.
You have just know Would I be on LeBron’s side? Hey, great. Someone would like to leave a legacy, right? If my attitude in these pages since 2014 has been that obvious — if my legacy is to be consistently, repeatedly, reliably open to the idea that we should treat all people equally — well, thank you. Consider my day done.
What is your legacy?
Jerry Jones and the segregationist mafia
The picture shows what it shows. The integration of a school in North Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Black students enter the building. White students hate them for it.
In the photo in question, which surfaced during a series of NFL owner profiles reported last week by The Washington Post, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is 14 years old. It’s 1957, he recalls, and six black students are trying to get into North Little Rock High. They are met by a mob of white students who block their way.
Is every student in that crowd guilty of defending segregation, of trying to keep black students from entering the building? No of course not. The students were at school that morning to, you know, go school. Some saw the din, including TV cameras, and walked over to take a look.
Not everyone is guilty.
Not everyone is innocent.
Who is Jerry Jones? Impossible to tell. He’s in the photo, several rows back. He’s in his second year. There’s an expression on his face, but it’s impossible to read. It could be the start of something nice, a welcome sign for black students. It could be the start of something uglier, something in support of the Mafia.
Does Jones’ presence make him patently guilty? No. Does his explanation, 65 years later – that he was only there out of “curiosity” – make him blatantly innocent? No.
LeBron didn’t exactly crush Jones’ look in that photo. I didn’t even apologize. What he said, exactly, was this:
“It feels to me like the whole Jerry Jones situation, picture — and I know it was years and years ago and we all make mistakes, I get that — but it looks like it just got buried under, like, ‘Oh, that happened. OK, go on.’ And I was a little disappointed I didn’t get that question from you guys.”
LeBron seems inclined to believe that Jones was part of the wrong group, the segregationist mafia – not just “curious” – and Jones has given reason to believe so. He was one of the hardline owners who lined up against players kneeling for the national anthem in 2017. That position made LeBron, a well-known Cowboys fan, stop rooting for the team.
As for the kneeling and the anthem, I’m not here to question the whole thing. Stay where you are, wherever it is. I stay where I am, which is to say: consistently, repeatedly, reliably open to the idea that we should treat all people equally.
Doyel in 2017: Vice President Mike Pence’s strike used the Colts for political purposes
LeBron wasn’t really talking about Jerry Jones when he brought it up Wednesday night, though. He was using that photo—our reaction to it—as a lens into the soul of America. He has been brilliant and made me rethink my behavior over the last few weeks.
But then, I’m always inclined to listen to someone like LeBron. Other people? I’m not that inclined.
Shut up and dribble, all of that.
LeBron James in response to Kyrie Irving’s tweet, photo by Jerry Jones
Truth? I don’t like what LeBron’s comments and my reaction to Kyrie Irving and Jerry Jones situations say about me.
When Kyrie retweeted a promotional image from an anti-Semitic movie, I was horrified. This was a month ago, and as it happened, the Pacers were in Brooklyn to play Irving’s Nets. The Pacers, owned by Herb Simon, who is Jewish, defeated the Nets. I wrote gleefully about it, saying the Pacers were doing “the Lord’s work” and they pressed hard on Kyrie, because it was so easy.
“An idiot,” I called him.
To be clear: I’m not sorry.
In my defense, I didn’t go find anti-Kyrie quotes from black athletes to hide behind, as if to suggest: Hey, I can dunk on Kyrie too! A few days later, LeBron himself would say this about Kyrie’s promotional tweet and subsequent failure to distance himself from anti-Semitism:
“It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how tall you are, what position you are in – if you promote or solicit or say harmful things to any community that harm people, then I don’t respect that. I don’t forgive him.
See, LeBron said!
Four weeks later, when the Post discovered that 1957 photo of Jerry Jones, I didn’t write a story. Our NFL team, the Colts, is playing the Jones’ Cowboys this weekend — similar to the days of the Pacers and that Kyrie retweet — but it didn’t even occur to me to write something like: the Colts, beating the Jones’ Cowboys, would do “the Lord’s work” because Jerry Jones is “an idiot”.
It didn’t even occur to me.
Now, in my defense – and how ridiculous am I, defending myself again and again? – I’m not sure of Jones’ intentions in that 1957 photo. I don’t know if he was there as part of the mafia. I think? Yes I do it. But do I know? No. So I took him out.
LeBron raised the question, however, brilliantly: why, he wants to know, no one asks the black community – because no one asks he – on a 1957 photo with segregation, racism and the most famous owner in US professional sports? People couldn’t wait to ask him about Kyrie, because we knew LeBron was going to give us what we wanted: a smart (black) attack on Kyrie. For some of us, that meant justice. For others, he has provided cover.
Here’s what LeBron had to say, unsolicited, of course, Wednesday night:
“I was wondering why I didn’t get a question from you about the Jerry Jones photo. But when the Kyrie [Irving] what was going on, you guys were quick to ask us questions about it…
“When I watch Kyrie speak and he says, ‘I know who I am, but I want to keep that same energy when we talk about my people and things we’ve been through’ and that photo of Jerry Jones is one of those moments that our people, Black people , lived in America. And I feel like a black man, like a black athlete, like someone with power and a platform, when we do something wrong, or something people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage, it’s on the bottom ticker, it’s asked every single day.
“But it feels like the whole Jerry Jones situation, picture — and I know it was years and years ago and we all make mistakes, I get that — but it looks like it just got buried under, like, ‘Oh that happened OK, go on.’ And I was a little disappointed I didn’t get that question from you guys.”
As a member of the media, I too am a bit disappointed with all those reporters. As someone who squashed that Kyrie retweet but didn’t think too much of that 1957 photo of Jerry Jones, I am utterly disappointed in myself. This is called introspection. It can be inconvenient.
But it requires listening. Inconvenient too.
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This article originally appeared on the Indianapolis Star: LeBron James’ Awkward Question About Jerry Jones, Kyrie Irving