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When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was 15, his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas was the epicenter of the civil rights movement. Protests erupted amid efforts to integrate local high schools. White students tried to prevent black students from entering the building.

In a new article about Jones’ potential influence on the NFL’s efforts to improve its admittedly pathetic record of hiring minority head coaches, the Washington Post discovers a photo of a 15-year-old Jones. There he stands between the protesters at North Little Rock High School, blocking the way for six black students.

65 years later, Jones attributes his presence to a curiosity that defied his football coach’s orders.

Jim Albright, per Jones, told the team that he “didn’t want to see any of you knotheads near the front of this school tomorrow.” Jones claims (because really, what else can he say?) that he was there to watch, not participate.

“I don’t know that I or anyone foresaw it or had any background of knowledge. . . what was involved,” Jones told the Post. “It was more of a strange thing.”

On the one hand, he was 15 years old at the time. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine someone who was just curious having such a prominent place, as there were certainly many others who weren’t there to observe, but to prevent.

The lengthy article covers Jones’ employment practices with the Cowboys. He never hired a black head coach, and he had a limited number of minority coordinators on the payroll. Former Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen, whose on-air editorials confronting the team is legendary, tells the Post that Jones could be a force for change among his NFL peers.

Jones does not disagree with Hansen’s point. When asked by the Post if he had this “unique ability” to create change, Jones said, “I do. What I want to say is that I understand that.”

He also seems to understand the fundamental truth that the hiring process continues to be driven by relationships and intimacy, not pure merit.

“It’s not the X’s and O’s,” Jones told the Post. “It’s not the Jimmys and Joes. It’s who you know.”

It’s also what the owner knows the owner wants to do. In 2003, Jones was determined to hire Bill Parcells. And Jones apparently viewed the Rooney Rule as a box that needed checking, interviewing Dennis Green over the phone — and in turn forcing the league to revise the rule to require in-person interviews.

Whether Jones’ personal interview with the Post convinces anyone that his motives in 1957 were pure, it is undeniable that he has significant influence over his other owners. If he took a prominent position, others would follow.

However, he had 33 years to do so. Could it happen in the twilight of his tenure as the team’s owner? It’s up to him.

The Washington Post Discovers A 1957 Photo Of Jerry Jones In A Crowd Preventing Black Students From Entering The School – S Chronicles

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