We can’t have a meaningful conversation if we can’t at least agree on what the conversation should be.
Everyone talks, perhaps feeding on egos or agendas, without even dancing around the core of the problem because it’s hard to define. There was show, defense, and preaching – although the latter may be applied here – and the difference between the three seems impossible to distinguish.
LeBron James has appointed himself as a leader at various times throughout his long career, solving problems as he sees fit and staying away from others as usual. Being a sports league representative is tough; it is impossible for a group of people to be alone.
Perhaps because he was asked about all the problems in the world, he expected to be asked about the photo of 14-year-old Jerry Jones, which was distributed by the Washington Post. Jones was present in 1950s Arkansas when black students were trying to integrate North Little Rock High School, where Jones attended.
Or rather, in the eyes of 1950s Arkansas, infiltrate.
James, who was asked a few weeks ago about former teammate Kyrie Irving’s fascination with anti-Semitism, went on to chastise the media for No asking him about Jones because James was a Dallas Cowboys fan before the Colin Kaepernick scandal years ago.
It has been speculated that James wants Irving to be his teammate again in Los Angeles, so the question was obvious. However, James is not an NFL player or owner. Imagine if someone asked him about Deshawn Watson’s legal troubles with Cleveland or Washington owner Daniel Snyder, just like that.
It’s not a strong connective tissue to make a side-by-side comparison, but James was spokesman on a variety of issues that may or may not have anything to do with him.
In this case, it was a false equivalence, or rather, a perturbation generating a perturbation.
James hinted that he had something to say, but dropped the microphone and left, preventing any further questions regarding the real issue.
I will not disassemble James here, but he referred to the photo of Jones, and not a story that featured interviews and comments by Jones on the day in question, and more importantly, his hiring practices in relation to the race as the owner of the Cowboys – he had never hired a black head coach in over 30 years and only two black coordinators – the threshold for first place in his time.
Under these conditions, James sees before him many faces that are not like his own, and turned the camera. There is nothing wrong with concessions, there is nothing wrong with the watchdog being watched and held accountable in the same way as powerful figures.
But it has to make sense, and at the time it seemed more condescending and unambiguous than perhaps he wanted. Perhaps unconsciously, of course, James opened the door to bands that never needed an invitation: bad actors and willfully hypocritical ones.
Of course, the Twitter machine worked and spread the photo like wildfire. It was full of retweets, favorites, and obvious talking point threads, but the conversation was unfortunately diverted.
The low-hanging fruit is to speak of the grace given to Jones, framing it with the reality of the day. Jones was a teenager in the South, and that was ten years before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Expecting him to be anything other than a child of his time is a bit unrealistic, even when compared to the black teenagers of that day or any other day. At any moment for a black person, especially then, a wrong step could lead to terrible circumstances, up to and including death.
It can be assumed that this could be the topic of the day, but expanding it would not be in the name of releasing Jones on bail.
Blaming him for how he behaved or potentially behaved on the day that the 14-year-old feels short-sighted. Talking about how he, a man of great influence and power, was inactive in matters of hiring in the NFL is a big problem.
This photo is a tasty snapshot for the public who loves to mess around with 160 characters but prefers to stay in the kiddie pool outside.
If only we, as a public, could have a few mature, focused discussions, let alone one.
Social media has turned the lens in countless directions, and it would have been nice if James actually had the discussion first that filled in the gaps of so many frustrations.
Yes, blacks have a higher score than whites – this is not exactly news. And it’s not necessarily a discussion on this day, just as it wasn’t a discussion when Irving was disrespectful to the Jews.
AT this photoif anyone chooses to focus on it, Jones didn’t have much power – strength in whiteness, strength in numbers. His strength in the 30 years since owning the Cowboys has stood apart, neither stopping progress nor moving it forward.
Jones’ comments were so instructive and rich – not only in terms of thought, but also in simple audacity. He’s not every owner in professional sports, but Jones is certainly not alone. His words speak to what many black parents have been telling their children over the years: you have to be twice as good to get half the credit.
Jones spoke of his ambition to get on the golf courses to win over an audience in front of the influencers before he became one of them. It can be concluded that this implies his feeling that the prospective black coaches and leaders are not doing enough to get ahead of him – in the avenue, the scheduled interview will not satisfy.
What he doesn’t understand – an important point – is that blacks don’t have access to these roads to shake hands with Jones or discuss something informally. What he doesn’t realize is that he has a cheat code that – combined with his forward thinking and ambitious approach – created the mogul we have today.
And he is not alone in this opinion, no matter what other owners say publicly. Jones just has the audacity to say quiet things out loud, and without fail, he will have an army of black people with personal experience with Jones, ready to vouch for him.
“Jerry made a lot of black players rich, but he did it in the name of winning,” an NBA front office executive, who was granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, told Sportzshala Sports.
“[Former Alabama football coach] Bear Bryant Didn’t Get Black Players Until He Started Losing [integrated] commands. [Former Kentucky basketball coach] Adolph Rupp lost to the All-Black starting five at Texas Western, then he went and integrated. Does this mean that these guys have suddenly changed their minds? I have my doubts that this is the case.”
Although it would be great if these powerful people could hold hands with blacks and sing “We are the world” feelings don’t matter. How someone is treated is the ultimate currency. No one should be liked, but the most achievable is to give equal chances.
The public, and to a large extent the media, treat owners in general with respect. Notice the “gentlemen” before the names of billionaires rather than the names of athletes, and how a very small and powerful bloc doesn’t have to consider the concerns of their peers in the same way that players have to discuss topics they have nothing to do with.
James didn’t attack the point or even address the painting—one Jones could easily evade, another he addressed directly in the Washington Post article. But if we talk about deeper and more subtle issues, you need to be ready for discussion.
The picture is reductive, almost saying “Gotcha!” adult male for his tweets when he was 14 years old.
It doesn’t seem fruitful to go down that path when there are so many other substantive discussions about how this thing can turn into something productive and close to the NBA’s wheelhouse.
Have NBA team owners embraced religion in a way that NFL franchise owners have not? There are more black head coaches than at any time in the history of the league, after years of ignominious numbers, slow hires and quick layoffs.
This can change in the blink of an eye, but they reacted instantly to public pressure, and even if they deserved it, doubts should not automatically be exploited.
Power in most cases respects only strength, but is afraid of a little pressure and inertia.
This is the door that Jones opened wide: a man who openly expressed closeness to the people he knew and became close to him, but indecision towards those who are in this far, far space – even if they are within arm’s reach.
Perhaps James will have read the story by the time he picks up the microphone again, or at least he will have CliffsNotes. He was an excellent, exemplary NBA spokesman, guiding through turbulent waters and answering questions that should have been directed to others.
But be careful not to be asked about everything. Because you will be asked about anything.