The issue of race and its historical legacy in the US was at the forefront of NBA star LeBron James’ mind on Wednesday as he asked reporters why he hadn’t received any questions about a photo of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones attending a racial desegregation protest in 1957.
The black and white photo – published in a story by the Washington Post last week – shows a 14-year-old Jones, looking over as a crowd of White students attempted to block six Black students from entering North Little Rock High School in Arkansas in 1957.
“I got one question for you guys before you guys leave,” said James, speaking after the Los Angeles Lakers’ 128-109 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
“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.
“But when the Kyrie [Irving] thing was going on, you guys were quick to ask us questions about that.”
Brooklyn Nets star Irving was suspended for eight games last month after he refused to issue an apology for positing a link to a link to a documentary containing antisemitic messages on his Twitter page.
The 30-year-old Irving has since apologized multiple times saying he doesn’t “stand for anything close to hate speech or antisemitism” and returned to the court on November 20.
‘It’s asked about every single day’
Lebron contrasted the media’s handling of the 1957 photo – “It seems like it’s just been buried,” said the Lakers star – and the day-to-day media coverage Irving’s tweet generated.
“We’re talking about my people and the things that we’ve been through and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America,” said James.
“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.
“It seems like to me that whole Jerry Jones situation photo – and I know it was years and years ago and we all mistakes, I get it,” the 37-year-old James continued. “But we … just move on.
When asked about the photo after it was published by the Washington Post, Jones told reporters he was a curious kid and that he didn’t know how monumental the event really was.
“I didn’t know at the time the monumental event really that was going on,” Jones said, according to 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.”
CNN has reached out to the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Lakers for comment.
Outspoken about social justice
Five-time NBA champion James was asked about Irving in November and said: “I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people. He has since, over the last – today, or was it yesterday – he apologized. But he caused some harm.
“It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how tall you are, what position you’re in – if you are promoting or soliciting, or saying harmful things to any community that harm people, then I don’t respect it. I don’t condone it.”
James was once an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, but recently said he switched his allegiance to the Cleveland Browns following the Cowboys’ policy – iterated by Jones – that players stand for the national anthem as players across the country were taking the knee to protest social and racial injustice.
“It’s just a lot of things that was going on during the, you know, when guys were kneeling,” James said during an Instagram Live conversation with Maverick Carter, who is the NBA star’s long-time friend and business partner.
“A lot of people in their front office and a lot of people that ran the organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”
In 2018, Jones told reporters: “Our policy is that you stand at the anthem, toe on the line.”
James has long been outspoken about social justice, and co-founded voting rights organization “More Than a Vote” along with a host of other Black athletes and artists to focus on combating systemic, racist voter suppression.