Stephen A. Smith has defended Jerry Jones after a photo from 1957 showed him among a group of white young men blocking the path of Black students attempting to desegregate an Arkansas school, who went on to be known as the “Little Rock Nine.”
“I’m pretty pissed off,” Smith said on a recent First Take segment discussing the newly surfaced photo of the Dallas Cowboys owner when he was 14. “I’m pissed off but not for reasons people think. I am very, very fond of Jerry Jones, and I’m not hiding that from anybody. 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, our report, said he was 14 years old. Another report said he was 15 years old. At minimum that’s 65 years ago.”
The photograph was taken 65 years ago, on Sept. 9, 1957 at North Little Rock High in Arkansas. “You gonna bring up a photo of Jerry Jones standing at this protest, no question what was happening, it’s not something that anybody as a Black person should be appreciative about,” he continued. “We had six students at that particular North Little Rock high school, that was trying to desegregate the school. Nobody should be okay with that, we understand that, we get all of that. … Racism is a live and well, bigotry and prejudice is alive and well. We get all of that, but you gonna bring up a photo of him when he was 14, 15 years old? 65 or 66 years ago.”
Smith went on to accuse reporters covering the photo of “making an attempt” to bring “cancel culture” on Jones, who has never hired a Black coach. “You’re making an attempt to eradicate him,” he continued. “By the way, I don’t have a problem with a photo. If he was 30, 35, 40 years old, that’s different. 14, 15 years old…We’re gonna lean on somebody was he was 14, born and raised in the south? And we gonna pick it up 66 years later, to say, ‘You know something, you ain’t hire a Black coach.’ I think that’s pretty low. … If he were an adult, that would be different.”
Following the publication of the story this week, Jones fielded questions over the photo and said he was there because he was “curious” about what was going on. "I didn't know at the time the monumental event really that was going on," Jones said, per ESPN. "I'm sure glad that we're a long way from that. I am. That would remind me [to] just continue to do everything we can to not have those kinds of things happen."
The photo was taken just weeks prior to when the nine Black students integrated into Little Rock Central High School.
In a recent interview with CNN, Little Rock Nine member Ernest Green shared his thoughts on the photo of Jones.
“My view is that Jones has an opportunity to make that picture have a different ending by pursuing diversity and inclusion and involvement of the African-American community, and people of color all throughout this country,” he said. “Dallas Cowboys is an institution most Americans know something about. Professional football is an entity that everybody has some interest in, and I think that rather than talk[ing] to Jerry about what happened in 1957 let’s go forward and see what we can do this year.”