After The Washington Post shared a photo of Jerry Jones among a group of young white men preventing Black students from integrating an Arkansas high school in 1957, Stephen A. Smith strongly defended the Dallas Cowboys owner from what he deemed to be an act of “cancel culture.”
Last week, the Post published an article titled Jerry Jones helped transform the NFL, except when it comes to race. In the article, they shared a disturbing photo featuring Jones as a teenager with a group of white boys blocking the entrance to North Little Rock High as six Black students attempted to desegregate the school.
David Maraniss and I did a deep dive on Jerry Jones, who was on the steps of his Little Rock high school for an explosive encounter during the school-segregation strife of 1957: https://t.co/JFtF5MkVJC
— sallyjenkinswashpost (@sallyjenkinswa1) November 23, 2022
With the photo of Jones circulating social media, Smith went on a recent episode of First Take and defended the Cowboys owner. Although Smith plays up his dislike of the Cowboys on First Take, the ESPN host frequently touts his friendship with Jones.
I’m very fond of Jerry Jones and he doesn’t deserve what just happened to him! pic.twitter.com/XgegwXI5Vh
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) November 25, 2022
“I’m pretty pissed off,” Smith began. “I’m pissed off but not for reasons that people would think. I am very, very fond of Jerry Jones, and I’m not hiding that from anybody. Is his record perfect? No, but I’m pissed off because he doesn’t deserve what just happened. He doesn’t deserve it. One report, our report, said he was 14 years old. Another report said he was 15 years old. At minimum that’s 65 years ago.”
“You’re going to bring up a photo of him when he was 14, 15 years old? Sixty-five or sixty-six years ago? This is where cancel culture gets into the mix,” Smith continued. “You’re making an attempt to eradicate him, what he stands for and all he has done.”
But no one is “canceling” Jerry Jones. He’s not getting kicked out of the NFL or being asked to sell the Cowboys. The photo exists and it’s fair to ask the multibillionaire Cowboys owner about it, especially considering he previously admitted to attending the protest, but claimed to have done so as part of historical documentation. However, based on the newly uncovered photo, Jones appears to have been a more active participant in preventing the Black students from integrating.
“I don’t have a problem with the photo. If he was 30, 35, 40 years old, that’s different!” Smith ranted “We’re going to lean on somebody when he was 14? Born and raised in the South, and we’re going to pick it up 66 years later to say, ‘You know something, you ain’t hiring a black coach.’ I think that’s pretty low.”
Jones did not hide from the photo, having since answered questions about the incident, although his recount doesn’t exactly align with the timeline provided in the WaPo report.
“I don’t know that I or anybody anticipated or had a background of knowing … what was involved. It was more a curious thing,” Jones told The Washington Post of the controversial image.
Smith has strongly advocated the need to see more Black head coaches in the NFL, a league that began the season with just three despite nearly 60 percent of its players being Black. Jones, meanwhile, has never hired a Black head coach in his 33 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys. In 2016, Jones was also critical of Colin Kaepernick’s protest for social justice, and later stated any Cowboys players who are “disrespecting the flag” would not play.