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The Apollo Presents In Conversation: Fat Joe

Stephen A. Smith speaks onstage during “In Conversation with Fat Joe” at The Apollo Theater on November 15, 2022, in New York City. | Source: Shahar Azran / Getty

Even though an unearthed decades-old photo bolsters suspicions that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is racist, media personality Stephen A. Smith suggested the scrutiny has been blown out of proportion and is unmerited.

To be sure, Smith — a Black man — was defending the very white Jones for being shown in a photo from 1957 as a teenager witnessing his fellow white students blocking the path of six Black students who were integrating his high school in Arkansas. The photo was published this week in the Washington Post for a story about Jones’ record on race in the NFL.

From the Washington Post:

On the first day of classes at North Little Rock High, a crew-cut sophomore named Jerral Wayne Jones found his spot among a phalanx of White boys who stood at the front entrance and blocked the path of six Black students attempting to desegregate the school.

In a photograph taken at the scene, Jones could be seen standing a few yards from where the six Black students were being jostled and repelled with snarling racial slurs by ringleaders of the mob. At one point, a Black student named Richard Lindsey recalled, someone in the crowd put a hand on the back of his neck. A voice behind him said, “I want to see how a nigger feels.” The ruffian hostility succeeded in turning away the would-be new enrollees.

After the photo made the rounds on social media, critics suggested that if Jones wasn’t racist, the photo would have shown him advocating for the Black students instead of just standing there watching his racist schoolmates torment them. Or, at least, he wouldn’t have been in the photo at all and would have been in a classroom or elsewhere not being near the unabashed racism.

It was in that context that Smith defended Jones.

“I’m very, very fond of Jerry Jones,” Smith said Friday on his “First Take” show on ESPN. “Is his record perfect? No. But I’m pissed off because he doesn’t deserve what just happened.”


While acknowledging that Black people understand that “racism is alive and well,” Smith kept harping on Jones age in the photo and how long ago the snapshot was taken.

Suggesting the outrage over the photo is a consequence of “cancel culture” getting “into the mix,” Smith said Jones shouldn’t be vilified.

“I don’t have a problem with the photo,” Smith continued, citing Jones’ young age. at the time.

Responding to the criticism that Jones’ experience as a youth has informed the billionaire’s decision against ever hiring a Black head coach for the Cowboys, Smith said, “I think that’s pretty low.”

The criticism of Smith for defending Jones in the photo was swift.

What Smith failed to recognize is Jones’ overall record on diversity, which is lacking, to put it mildly.

It wasn’t that long ago when Jones was threatening to punish any Cowboys players who kneeled during the playing of the national anthem and participated in the silent protest for racial equality. That came after Jones joined his players and coaches in kneeling before the national anthem played for a game in 2017. But there was a burning suspicion that Jones only took part in the protest to protect his bottom line — money — instead of equality.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys have still never once had a Black head coach in its nearly 63-year existence.

This is America.


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