Stephen A. Smith has two options. Stand by his man and deal with the consequences, or apologize and hold Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones accountable for past and present racist allegations that have become too big to ignore.
Choose wisely, Stephen A., even if the things you’ve said and done in the past suggest that you won’t. For the second time in less than a year, Jones’ problematic tone on race — which Smith dismissed — has been exposed as past and present behavior.
While the ramifications from Jim Trotter’s racial discrimination/retaliation lawsuit against the NFL continue to take place, what shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle is the role Smith has played in this — which is reminiscent of Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Django Unchained — involving Jones.
Last November, the Washington Post released a damning report on Jones’ tenure as the NFL’s most popular owner. It detailed how Jones has led the league — and the Cowboys — to record-breaking revenue models without ever hiring a Black coach in a majority-Black league.
It was an examination of how such a powerful and charismatic man — whose teams have been carried by Black players — does so little when it comes to diversity, despite knowing that he could influence other owners to be on the right side of history.
However, most people didn’t read the story. They got caught up in a photo that the story featured, a picture of Jones from 1957 in Arkansas among a crowd of white students, “standing on the frontlines of one of Little Rock’s darkest segregation clashes,” read the report. At the time, white students (and adults) were showing up at school entrances, usually to hurl racial slurs in an attempt to intimidate Black students in hopes of preventing them from entering public schools after the Brown v. Board decision.
“Jerry Jones has an opportunity to make that picture have a different ending,” Ernest Green, a member of the Little Rock Nine, said at the time.
As expected, Jones’ excuse for being in the picture was pathetic. “That was, gosh, 65 years ago, and [I was a] curious kid at the time,” he declared. “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.”
In a world in which Black people who survived integration in the South are still alive, Jones wants us to believe that he didn’t understand the historic moment he watched Black people endure.
It’s an insult to our intelligence — and Smith made the cut even deeper.
“I’m pretty pissed off. And let me say this. I’m pissed off, but not for reasons that people would think. I’m very very fond of Jerry Jones, and I’m not hiding that from anybody,” Smith said at the time on First Take. The man who people mistakenly look to as an important voice when it comes to racial and social matters declared his allegiance to Jones on national TV. “Is his record perfect? No. But I’m pissed off because he doesn’t deserve what just happened. He doesn’t deserve it.
“At minimum, that’s 65 years ago.”
According to Smith’s logic, racism and accountability have a statute of limitations. But on Tuesday, Trotter’s lawsuit opened up a new can of worms.
“If Blacks feel some kind of way, they should buy their own team and hire who they want to hire,” is what Trotter alleges Jones said in 2020 about why so few Black employees work at the highest levels for the league and NFL teams.
For those who are wondering the same, it’s because (white) men like Jones won’t allow Black people to own NFL franchises. Over the last few years, the NFL has had a chance to make history by allowing a Black person to gain admittance to the ultimate good ole boys club. Wealthy Black men like Byron Allen and Robert F. Smith have been overlooked or had their bids denied in efforts to keep NFL ownership lily white — sans Jacksonville Jaguars majority owner Shad Khan.
“Diversity and inclusion are extremely important to me personally and to the NFL,” said Jones in response to Trotter’s claim in his lawsuit — as if history is littered with white people actually admitting their prejudices, biases, and racist ways. “The representation made by Jim Trotter of a conversation that occurred over three years ago with myself and our VP of Player Personnel Will McClay is simply not accurate.”
Over the past few years, Smith — a former positive voice for Black athletes and Black people — has been unapologetic in speaking his truth. However, that revelation has felt like Smith wants nothing more than to be a wealthy white man — and all the privileges that come with it.
“I’m a proud capitalist and won’t apologize to anybody,” he once said on Fox News.
Smith considers Sean Hannity a friend, implied that President Biden has made more mistakes than a twice-impeached Donald Trump who is facing a RICO, has endorsed Chris Christie [Ed. note: Gross] over a Democratic Presidential candidate, and has doubled down on his own “presidential aspirations.”
The man who was once Allen Iverson’s confidant now resembles Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks.
Now we wait to see how Smith will respond to what his white savior has been accused of. But if we’re being honest, there’s only one thing that needs to be asked of Smith.
“How fond are you of Jones, now?”
Only he knows the answer to that. And no matter the response, it’ll tell us who Stephen A. Smith truly is — in the same way that journalists at the Washington Post and Jim Trotter have shown us who Jerry Jones has always been.