Chapter 1 “Man in the Middle”
Ermon Jones was a terror under the basket—snaring rebounds on the backboard, distributing the ball to teammates, driving with authority to the hoop to score.
His undefeated basketball team was playing a county rival, and the six-foot-three-inch Neptune High School center was one of the tallest players on the court.
Because he was a senior and a gifted, athletic “big man,” he intimidated opponents.
Add that Jones was the only black player on either team and bigotry—not to mention hatred and fear—became a more significant factor deep into the game.
Neptune was playing in its home gym against Freehold Township, a neighboring town in Monmouth County, New Jersey.
More than seven decades after that memorable 1941–42 season, Ermon Jones reset the scene:“I came in, and the cheerleaders were cheering.”
They were all white—no black cheerleaders. The players and spectators were mostly white.
During the game, the Freehold players kept making remarks about me. Their negative comments and hard, unnecessary contact got nastier and nastier.
“It got to where one of them said, ‘What are you trying to do, nigger?’ As we wrestled each other for the ball, then he fell to the door, and it happened: I kicked him.”
“Of course, they ejected me from the game. I quickly left the court and went to the locker room. As soon as I got there, my coach came running in behind me.”
“He said, ‘Ermon, you don’t know what you did. You are a disgrace!’” and made other blunt statements.
“All I said was: ‘Coach, I couldn’t stand it any longer.’”
That might have been the start of a very severe, extended period of punishment for Ermon Jones.
During that time, in a different part of the country, kicking a young white man in public might have cost him his life.
There were carte blanche lynchings of African American males in Southern and rural Midwestern states.
Even in New Jersey, the public might have demanded that the star player be prosecuted or kicked off
the team at once.
About Dr. Geneva
For information on her new book, “Justice on the Jersey Shore,” go here.