NBA superstar and media mogul LeBron James has become one of the most powerful and influential voices in all of sports. He paused during a Wednesday night press conference to use his power and influence to express dismay that reporters had not asked him about a recent controversy that disappeared almost as quickly as it emerged.
“I was wondering why I haven’t gotten a question from you guys about the Jerry Jones photo, but when the Kyrie [Irving] thing was going on, you guys were quick to ask us questions about that,” James said. “When I watched Kyrie talk and he says, ‘I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things that we have been through,’ that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America.
“And I feel like as a Black man as a Black athlete as someone with power and a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage, it’s on the bottom ticker, it’s asked about every single day. But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, photo — and I know it was years and years ago and we all make mistakes, I get it — but it seemed like it’s been buried under like, ‘Oh, It happened. We just move on.’ And I was kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”
NBA player Kyrie Irving was the subject of multiple news cycles, and eventually a suspension, for social-media posts regarding an antisemitic documentary and for his failure to make clear that he holds no antisemitic beliefs. James condemned Irving for his actions, but James expressed a belief that the punishment imposed on Irvin was excessive.
It’s arguably an apples-and-oranges situation, since it involves a different sport. That said, LeBron has been a well-known Cowboys fan. Earlier this year, LeBron said he cooled on the Cowboys after the manner in which Jones handled the anthem controversy of 2016 and 2017.
The better question may be this. Why haven’t reporters asked Cowboys players about the photo? Why haven’t others in the NFL been asked about the photo? Maybe the willingness of Jones to face the music after last Thursday’s game meant that reporters who would otherwise have been asking players about the photo were talking to Jones about it directly.
The whole thing died in less than two days. For many reporters, it was hard to justify attacking the behavior of a 14-year-old boy. Some went on the offensive; ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith loudly defended Jones and chastised the Washington Post for publishing the story.
Even though it happened 65 years ago, there were no neutral observers who had their faces front and center at such incidents. His mere presence among the while students who were there to intimidate and harass makes him part of the problem. The only way to be part of the solution would have been to climb out of the mob and help usher the Black students into the school.
It’s not about “cancel culture.” No one is trying to “cancel” one of the most rich and powerful men in America. It’s likely that no one could if they tried. The broader goal is to understand why Jones hasn’t used his own power and influence to effect change in the NFL, when it comes to hiring non-white coaches.
Lost in the entire debate is an answer that continues to hide in plain sight. Jones made it clear that he makes hires based on who he knows. That’s the very attitude the NFL has spent 20 years trying to eradicate from the process.
“It’s not the X’s and O’s,” Jones told the Post. “It’s not the Jimmys and Joes. It’s who you know.”
The fact that Jones so freely admits to making his decisions based on familiarity shows that he has either ignored or affirmatively rejected the league’s efforts to get owners to take a step back from who they know when making such important decisions, and to spend time getting to know others who may fall beyond the owner’s circle of friends and associates — and to perhaps realize that someone the owner doesn’t know may be more deserving of the opportunity.