Jerry Jones is grilled about 1957 photo, and his more recent hiring practices


The day before Thanksgiving, the Washington Post published a lengthy story regarding Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, his historic hiring practices, and his unique ability to influence the change that, no matter how hard the NFL tries, it just can’t engineer.

The article drew the most attention for the fact that it shed light on a photograph of a 14-year-old Jones among a group that was crowding around the entrance to North Little Rock High School as six Black students tried to enter, in September 1957.

After his team’s traditional Thanksgiving Day game, Jones (as he usually does) held court with reporters. As expected, Jones got plenty of questions about the Post story.

“That was, gosh, 65 years ago, and [I was a] curious kid at the time,” Jones said. “I didn’t know at the time the monumental event really that was going on. I’m sure glad that we’re a long way from that.”

Jones again attributed his presence to curiosity that overcame the potential consequences of defying his football coach’s directive to stay away.

“I got criticized because I was more interested in how I was going to be punished by my coaches and everybody for being out front, but nobody there had any idea frankly what was going to take place,” Jones said. “You didn’t — we didn’t have all the last 70 years of reference and all the things that were going and so you didn’t have a reference point there. Still, I’ve got a habit of sticking this nose in the right place at the wrong time.”

Was he punished by his coach for being there?

“Well, I was a young sophomore trying to make the team and they kicked my ass,” Jones said.

Jones nevertheless admitted that he realizes the perception that his presence created, since it wasn’t (as Newy Scruggs of NBC 5 said to Jones) a “welcoming committee” at the front of the school.

“I sure do, and I understand that,” Jones said. “Look, that was 65 years ago, and I had no idea when I walked up there what we were doing. It just is a reminder to me of how to improve and do things the right way. . . . You want to ask me what I was thinking? I was thinking I’m going to get in trouble for being up here, and I didn’t know what was going on. I was 15 years old and so having said that, that’s all that I can remember.”

Asked whether he understands that many Black Americans who grew up during the civil rights era remain bitter about the events of the time, Jones turned defensive, in multiple ways.

“Hey, I’m bitter about a lot of stuff,” Jones said. “I’m bitter about a lot of stuff. I’ve got a lot of first cousins and cousins who have had their ass kicked. We’re all bitter about a lot of things. What I’m talking about is how we approach things, it’s who you know. OK? It’s not the X’s and O’s. It’s who you know.”

The “who you know” line echoes the explanation Jones provided to the Post regarding his failure to hire a Black head coach in 33 years of owning the Cowboys. The mindset actually bolsters the reality that NFL owners (the vast majority of whom are older  and white) are more comfortable with those to whom they can best relate, through background, upbringing, life experiences, and/or personal or family connections.

“It’s who you know” has NEVER been regarded as an admirable quality when it comes to making fair and proper employment decisions. The goal has been to ensure that decisions are based on merit, not cronyism or nepotism or any other -ism.

Jones, apparently oblivious to the implication of “it’s who you know,” continued to double down on that dynamic.

“You think Jimmy Johnson [would have] been coaching the Cowboys had I not known him and considered him a friend?” Jones said. “Barry Switzer? Hell, no. That’s who you go. By the way, look who they hired on their staff. Look who they hired. They hired who they knew and who they’d been with for years and years and years.”

Jones also tried to say that all decisions are based solely on business. And he’s right — based specifically on his own, time-honored approach to business.

“My goal when I get up in the morning is to make it work,” Jones said. “And I don’t care whether it’s you or you or you. Hell, we’ve got to make it work. That’s where I go. As far as who makes it work, what they look like who makes it work, that has no place in my life. No place. It isn’t even a thought about who makes it work.”

That’s fine, but when it’s time to “make it work” and he needs people to help him “make it work,” what questions is he asking?  Is it “how do I find the best possible person for this job even if I don’t know them from Adam?” or is it “who do I know?” and/or “who are my friends?” and/or “who can I trust?” and/or, ultimately, “who am I already comfortable with?”

Very few (hopefully) of the owners who have contributed to the NFL’s admittedly shameful record over many decades when it comes to diversity and inclusion in key positions like head coach have done so because they are racists. It happens because, as they try to “make it work,” they gravitate toward the inherent efficiency of hiring those “who you know.”

It’s a dynamic that is very easy to understand, and equally difficult to eradicate. For people like Jones, it’s so inherent to the way he operates that he doesn’t even realize there’s a potential problem with it.

22 responses to “Jerry Jones is grilled about 1957 photo, and his more recent hiring practices

  1. The people who like to insist that the best person gets hired for every coaching job won’t like this one.

  2. as a country we are such a clown show – over 60 years ago – we’re talking about a 15 year old kid? was he the organizer or was it peer pressure or just wanted to see the show – no one knows but the woke mob wants to hang him now. man are we messed up. i don’t even like the guy but this is embarrassing

  3. It was the hateful climate of the times on race. Do you think people haven’t evolved their thinking over time. I say this as a Black man. Let’s hold 14 year old kids accountable for something they did 65 years ago. None of us would withstand that scrutiny. Go look at some of the pictures in your high school yearbook.

  4. The ‘who you know’ hiring practice always leaves out the chance of hiring someone better. It’s like marrying your cousin and should stop.

  5. As an Eagles fan I’m no fan of Jones but, I will give him this respect. He wants to win every game every year and sell his soul for another ring. I’m sure race is NOT the reason he hires or fires ANYONE. He’d hire the devil himself if he knew he’d get a ring. So a photo taken 65 yrs ago in the deep south of America when he was 14 yrs old means nothing. The alarming part is the media trying to make an issue out of it..

  6. This is what makes it so difficult to watch this sport and most sports in general . Media trying to make a huge issue out of something a child did because it fits an agenda. Meanwhile a grown adult said he didn’t want his kids growing up in an urban jungle a handful of years after this. Oh and that adult is the president of the USA. You’re trying to say a full grown adult can change from past behavior, but a literal child can’t? By the way I hate both these men.

  7. So wait, are you saying he should hire a black coach or he should hire the best man for the job?

  8. I was born in 1954 and grew up under segregation. I could not join Boys Club, went to a “Colored School” and faced other restrictions, I dealt with white kids my age (6-10) and you can best believe some were a product of their racist community and espoused those ideals, others were not of the same accord and played with us and invited us into their homes. So yeah this could be an issue. But I guess it’s who you know and associate with…Birds of a Feather

  9. The suggestion that at 15 years old he could not have identified abject racism is intellectually dishonest and ludicrous. There were plenty of young white people who stood alongside black people against racism. Brown v Board was decided (3) years before Jones made the conscious choice to flout the SCOTUS ruling and stand against equal access to education and Justice.

  10. I actually read the WP article and I have to say that I see better how Jones is ticking after having read it. I like him more now.

  11. How about we promote those individuals who display the best qualities in the position we are looking to fill? If one coach clearly demonstrates those desired attributes over another applicant, REGARDLESS of race or sex, then they get the position. NASA already declared that Artemis 3 will take the first female astronaut to space in a handful of years. How about we send the BEST ASTRONAUTS, those most qualified whether it be 2 white males, 2 females or a transgender individual along with a Latino American. Same for coaching. Those who are the most qualified regardless of skin or sex should advance. Eric Bienemy? His resume in KC shows he deserves the opportunity. His one drawback? The Chiefs keep advancing far into the playoffs and most teams want their coaching staff filled before then as candidates are running dry.

  12. I have followed the Cowboys since the 1960s and watched them play in person at the Cotton Bowl. As a black man, I have more of a problem today with Herschel Walker than I do with Jerry Jones.

  13. How come the “hire the best person” crowd is unable to accept that sometimes the best person is, you know, non-white?

  14. A 15 year old raised in a racist environment is probably going to echo similar sentiment as those around them.
    They are a kid, give them a chance to grow up and see the world.
    It’s misguided to expect a 15 year old raised in a certain environment 65 years ago to have the same outlook and wisdom of an adult today.

  15. Even at the age of 10, most children know right from wrong. Jones was almost 15 and it is interesting which side of the 1957 incident he was pictured standing within.

    How different would he be viewed, were he standing with the other group, not being part of the larger barrier to block admittance – but actually showing humanity and speaking truth to power.

    Alas, that’s not who Jones is and never has been.

  16. 6ringsnewengland says:
    November 25, 2022 at 4:14 pm
    as a country we are such a clown show – over 60 years ago – we’re talking about a 15 year old kid? was he the organizer or was it peer pressure or just wanted to see the show – no one knows but the woke mob wants to hang him now. man are we messed up

    NO we’re not messed up, just other 1/2!

  17. I am still remorseful and embarrassed for some of the cruel and stupid things I did when I was a young teenager and they pale in comparison to what Jones did. The fact that Jones fails to express remorse is telling. Don’t make excuses for him. He knows how he behaved, knows on what side of the issue he stood in 1957, and remembers. Some genuine humility would help his case, but instead he just says “Aw shucks, boys will be boys.” It’s a bad look.

  18. This should be scrutinized just because of who he is but ultimately much to do about nothing. His explanation is believable but lebron said it right comparing the scrutiny over Kyrie Irving to this. Not in action, what Irving did is way worse but this is the owner of the Dallas Cowboys vs a good basketball player…and what’s up with this coming out the day before thanksgiving? Did the post have a deal with Jerry? I know, the game vs the giants was the next day but that’s gotta be one of the slowest news days of the year aka not difficult to sweep under the rug

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