Jemele Hill And Stephen A. Smith Are Split On Jerry Jones Photo | Was Dallas Cowboys Owner On Wrong Side Of Arkansas School Integration History?

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones looks on during warmups before the game against the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ recently revealed receipts standing with the crowd of school integration protestors in North Little Rock, Arkansas, polarizes Black Cowboys fans everywhere. Although it should be no surprise that the oil tycoon-turned-football business icon would have been present during one of the most racially segregated times in American history, seeing it in black and white shocked the culture’s consciousness.

Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones At Arkansas School Integration Protests in 1957

A 14-year-old Jerral Wayne Jones can be seen in a photo amid a group of white students antagonizing and blocking the entryway for newly admitted Black students. Taken reportedly on September 9, 1957, at North Little Rock High, Jones stands behind the leading group of white students aggressively obstructing the doorway so six Black students could not enter.

Since the photo was unearthed, Jones has attempted to clarify, saying he went there as a “curious thing,” with no intention of harassing the Black students. Additionally, he didn’t realize how significant the moment was.

“I don’t know that I or anybody anticipated or had a background of knowing what was involved,” Jones said to The Washington Post. “It was more a curious thing.”

Does Jerry Jones Get A Pass For Being Curious Onlooker? 

There have been various reactions by sports personalities ranging from sobering to supportive.

“Guessing Jerry Jones isn’t the only NFL owner who has something like this in his past,” sports analyst Jemele Hill wrote on Twitter. “The wild part is the expectation that Black people are just supposed to naively trust that white people who were once eager participants in the dark parts of history magically have evolved.”

Conversely, ESPN “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith was appalled at what seemed like an ambush of Jones.

“I’m pissed off, but not for reasons people may think,” Smith said. “I’m very, very fond of Jerry Jones, and I’m not hiding that from anyone. 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 said he was 14 years old. Another report said he was 15 years old. At minimum, that was 65 years ago.”

Raised in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Jones was a running back for the football team at North Little Rock High School, graduating in 1960. It was a time of segregation until the Civil Rights Act of 1957 became the first federal civil rights legislation passed by the United States Congress since the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The 85th U.S. Congress passed the bill, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law on Sept. 9, 1957.

The Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education set school desegregation in motion. By September 1957, the resistance to the Little Rock Nine’s attempt to desegregate Little Rock Central High School caused President Dwight Eisenhower to send federal troops to escort the Black students to the school. Although Jones was not there for that more famous moment, the fact that he was present a few miles away during the same month for a racial boiling point at his school is significant.

Is Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones A Racist? 

Jones lives in a branding milieu of success that most Black people respect, and, collectively, there is a tendency to focus on today’s triumphs versus yesterday’s faux pas. Jones owns the most valuable sports franchise in the world, with the organization valued at $8 billion. But when the perceived sins of the past are revealed, it forces the Cowboys’ Black supporters to make concessions or draw the line.

When Colin Kaepernick began his silent protest by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, Jones eventually took a knee with his players during a 2017 game against the Arizona Cardinals. The action happened before playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” to compromise with the team and vocal former Cowboys players critical of Jones’ lack of response.

“I knelt with our players, as you know, on a personal basis,” Jones explained during a 2020 interview on 105.3 The Fan. “But as a team, we all knelt together before the anthem, and then we stood for the anthem to recognize what its symbol is to America. I thought that was good. That’s the kind of thing that we’ll be looking to see if we can implement.”

Has Jerry Jones Ever Hired A Black Coach? 

Now Jones has another albatross to bear. (In addition to the fact that he’s never hired a Black Head Coach). Although he might be a victim of circumstance and caught in the matrix of America’s racial evolution, his presence amid the then-opposition reminds Black Cowboys supporters that time will always reopen old wounds, even from their sports business hero.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.