By Lenn Robbins
The magnificent treatise known as The Constitution of the United States gives us the right to free speech. Which means we also have the right not to speak. For some, this has been a better course of action. For others, worse.
There are those that subscribe to the theory that it’s best to let others assume you’re an idiot, rather than open one’s mouth and prove it. There are those that have opened their mouths and spent a lifetime trying to remove the lodged foot.
Which brings us to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. In full disclosure, I am a diehard Cowboys fan. I know I have doomed myself in the eyes of many. For whatever it’s worth, it happened by happenstance:
As a nine-year-old Jets fan in 1969, Joe Namath was the coolest star athlete to walk the planet. And he did it in high white tops and a fur coat. He guaranteed a Super Bowl and delivered by upsetting the 18-point favored Colts.
My animosity for the Colts almost equaled my passion for the Jets. When the Colts edged the Cowboys two years later, my allegiance shifted Southwest, just as the first Dallas dynasty was taking shape. Ascending Dallas, led by straight-laced, Hail Mary-throwing Roger Staubach usurped nightlife loving, bad knees-Namath and the declining Jets.
There is no other team I truly root for, which is why I’ve never covered a Dallas Cowboys game and won’t until I’m out of the business. So that’s my dark secret. I have a scarlet star over my heart.
The question is, does Jones have a dark secret?
As owner of the most valuable sports franchise in the world (the Cowboys are worth $5 billion according to Forbes), Jones has tremendous platform and power. He also has two of the young faces of the NFL – Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott – both of whom are black.
Jones has players on this team – veterans that are well respected throughout the league – who have come forward and voiced their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Jones has remained mum.
As a football team owner, Jones, 77, has spent the better part of his adult life surrounded by people of color. But not in his formative years. Jerry’s World was white.
He played on an all-white Arkansas football team that won the national championship in 1964. Arkansas didn’t have a black player until 1966. Jones doesn’t have the experience of lining up next to a player of color, or dressing in the same locker room, or trading high school memories.
Outside of football, Jerry’s World remains white. He is a member of Brook Hollow Golf Club, according to D Magazine. It is one of the most prestigious private clubs in the country. Haute Living says the income bracket of Brook Hollow members is “firmly in the 1 percent.”
As recently as 2007, Brook Hollow had admitted zero black members, according to the Dallas Morning News. An employee in the membership office said the club does not give out membership information.
So, Jones doesn’t play much, if any, golf with people of color. He likely doesn’t enjoy drinks in the club room with people of color. He probably doesn’t have dinner at the club with people of color.
According to the 2010 Census, the Highland Park, Tex. neighborhood where Jones keeps his primary residence is 94.4-percent white and 0.5-percent black. It’s probable Jones doesn’t bump into many black people around town.
None of this, of course, means Jerral Wayne Jones doesn’t support Black Lives Matter. And he certainly can exercise his right not to speak easier than his right to speak. One could even say it’s unfair to press him to comment. He is one citizen, one vote, one man.
Except some of Jones’s employees are questioning why their boss hasn’t voiced his support for the movement that is sweeping the nation – a movement that started creeping into the American consciousness when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the playing of the national anthem of an NFL game.
“It would be great to hear a statement from the Cowboys, great to hear a statement from Jerry Jones in support of everything that’s going on,” McCoy recently told ESPN. “Will that get me in trouble saying that? I don’t know, but the truth is it needs to be said. The problem is people are afraid to have the conversations.”
That’s a very real concern. Every time I write a column about race, I find my fingers tense because I know there is so much I don’t know about the black experience. I’m fraught with concern that I’ll unintentionally write something hurtful.
One thing that’s become painfully clear to me in these months is that white people aren’t comfortable speaking about matters of race. The last time I felt this awkward was disco dancing with white man’s overbite.
Maybe that’s why Jones has remained silent. Why risk being met with scorn? Because this is the other thing I’ve learned these months. People of color would much rather engage in sincere dialogue than continue the insidious silence that breeds doubt and suspicion.
This is America’s Time and Jones owns America’s Team. He may never have a better time to step up.