Thursday, December 01, 2022

Spot Off

There are many reasons not to like Jerry Jones, only one of them being his reaction when Colin Kaepernick respectfully knelt as the Star-Spangled Banner was played before a San Francisco 49ers' game in 2017. Jones warned "If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period. Period. We’re going to respect the flag. We cannot in the NFL, in any way, give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag. We cannot do that.” So Atlantic writer and former ESPN personality is right about two things and wrong about one:

For all those who are saying it doesn’t make sense for the media to ask LeBron about this, keep in mind he grew up as a Cowboys fan and recently said he no longer supports the Cowboys because of Jerry Jones’ response to Colin Kaepernick’s protest. LeBron is spot on.

James deserves credit for dropping the Cowboys in favor of his (near-) hometown Cleveland Browns. Moreover, it would have been appropriate to ask about Jerry Jones because

Prior to Thanksgiving, The Washington Post ran a story from David Maraniss and Sally Jenkins regarding Jones’ influence on the league, and how he has “led the league toward new revenue models.”

The story also highlighted something else: Jones’ record of hirings and appointments while owner of the Cowboys. As noted throughout the story, Jones has yet to hire a black head coach.

And a moment that is used to frame the entire story, a moment from Jones’ high school days, is now coming under greater scrutiny in the wake of the story’s publication. On the first day of classes at North Little Rock High School in September of 1957, six Black students attempted to desegregate the school, but were met by a crowd of white students who blocked their path.

Jones was among the individuals in the crowd. However, this took place 45 years ago, when Jones was only 15 years old, and he claims- honestly or otherwise- that he was there primarily as "a curious thing." Nonetheless

“I got one question for you guys before you guys leave. I was thinking when I was on my way over here, I was wondering why I haven’t gotten a question from you guys about the Jerry Jones photo,” James said to reporters after his Los Angeles Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers. “But when the Kyrie [Irving] thing was going on, you guys were quick to ask us questions about that.”


Mostly, it was because the controversy surrounding Irving, prompted by his link in October to an anti-Semitic film, continues and there is a prejudice toward what (in other contexts) has been termed "recentism." Furthermore, Irving once played with James on the Cleveland Cavaliers. They're both professional basketball stars while Jerry Jones, for better or worse, is a giant in the world of the National Football League.

Nonetheless, there is an additional reason which, though probably not uppermost in the minds of most reporters, is relevant to the greater interest the reporters have in James' response to Irving. One recalls (or should)

Los Angeles Lakers forward and NBA basketball star Lebron James is facing serious criticism from the Jewish community and sports reporters alike after posting a tenuously antisemitic lyrics to his Instagram account.

The four-time NBA MVP and three-time NBA champion posted a selfie that accompanied text quoting rapper 21 Savage's song lyrics in his post saying, “We getting that Jewish money, Everything is Kosher.”

James later removed the post from his social media account and it's difficult to accuse one of the ten greatest National Basketball Association players ever of anti-Semitism. (Kyrie Irving, not quite on that level, made it easy.)

It's not the end of the world, nor even high in the annals of bigotry. But the man dislikes Jews. Yet, understandably, reporters are reluctant to go there, especially because James' transgression itself took place four years ago and not yesterday. 

LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of the last quarter century. It is unavoidable that the media would be interested in his response to Kyrie Irving and the league's swift and relatively severe penalty imposed upon him.  James should be commended for recognizing that life goes on beyond the basketball court. But he and his attitude have not always been "spot on," nor is it now.


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