The fact that Jerry Jones was on the front lines fighting against the integration of Central High in Little Rock is one of the least surprising historical developments you will see:
On the first day of classes at North Little Rock High, a crew-cut sophomore named Jerral Wayne Jones found his spot among a phalanx of White boys who stood at the front entrance and blocked the path of six Black students attempting to desegregate the school.
In a photograph taken at the scene, Jones could be seen standing a few yards from where the six Black students were being jostled and repelled with snarling racial slurs by ringleaders of the mob. At one point, a Black student named Richard Lindsey recalled, someone in the crowd put a hand on the back of his neck. A voice behind him said, “I want to see how a nigger feels.” The ruffian hostility succeeded in turning away the would-be new enrollees.
The confrontation occurred 65 years ago, on Sept. 9, 1957, during the same month that a higher-profile integration effort was taking place at Little Rock Central High in the capital city a few miles away. The story of the Little Rock Nine, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched federal troops to escort the trailblazing Black students past the spitting hordes, is regarded as a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. It overshadowed the ugly events unfolding contemporaneously at Jones’s high school on the other side of the Arkansas River — an episode mostly lost to history, though not entirely.
That leads to the issues of race and power and the plight of Black coaches in a game where a preponderance of players are Black yet there are only three Black full-time head coaches. If the NFL is to improve its woeful record on the hiring, promotion and nourishment of Black coaches, Jones could lead the way.
His record in key appointments has been deficient. In his 33 years as owner, Jones has had eight head coaches, all White. During that time, just two of the team’s offensive or defensive coordinators, the steppingstones to head coaching positions, have been Black, including none since 2008. Maurice Carthon, who was offensive coordinator under Bill Parcells in 2003 and 2004, said he had a good relationship with Jones — both grew up in Arkansas — but he never sensed he had a realistic shot at the top job with him. Or with any other owner. “I can’t say that I was close at any time,” Carthon said. “I think all of them are failing.” Carthon retired in 2012 after coaching stints with seven teams.
I’d like to tell you that the Giants could beat them, but…enjoy your spaghetti carbonara!