CNN's Van Jones Compares Jussie Smollett to Jackie Robinson, Calling Both Iconic to Black Community

Not long after Chicago police conveyed their case against Empire star Jussie Smollett on Thursday, CNN political commentator and host Van Jones likened Smollett to baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

During a segment with CNN's Kate Bolduan, Jones said Smollett was as important to the black community as Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947.

"This is the fall of an icon and I don't think people understand how important he has been in the black community," Jones said on the program. "Empire as a show, to have him as a beloved character, I think did a great deal to knock back homophobia in the black community. The fact that he has been celebrated and you see homophobia in the black community through his eyes on the show, this is a Jackie Robinson against homophobia."

CNN's Van Jones on Jussie Smollett: “This is a Jackie Robinson against homophobia in the black community, an icon, a beloved icon” pic.twitter.com/u9Bz7Rs5z1

— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 21, 2019

Robinson became the first black player in MLB when he debuted in 1947, and he faced death threats constantly as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

His number, 42, is retired by Major League Baseball and all its affiliate clubs. Robinson won the National League Rookie of the Year during his historical 1947 campaign, and then won the NL MVP award in 1949. The six-time All-Star finished in the MVP voting four times and among the top 10 in batting average and on-base percentage six times in each category.

He twice led the National League in stolen bases and was among the top five in runs scored five different times.

Robinson, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962 — his first year of eligibility — would have turned 100 on Jan. 31.

Meanwhile Smollett, a 36-year-old actor with several NAACP Image Awards nominations, allegedly staged an attack against himself and wrote it off as a "hate crime." Chicago police indicted Smollett on Wednesday for filing a false police report in connection to the supposed attack.

CNN reports that the Empire actor paid $3,500 to stage the attack to further his career, according to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

According to CNN, the two brothers suspected of attacking Smollett in the alleged hoax confessed to their roles during the 47th hour of a 48-hour time frame. Persons of interest must be released after 48 hours.

"We just didn't have the total package to support that it was a hoax," Chicago PD Superintendent Johnson said. "This investigation didn't turn in the direction of Mr. Smollett being a defendant until the 47th hour that we had those two individuals in custody."

20th Century Fox, the production studio behind Empire, said it was weighing its options before deciding what to do about Smollett's role with the tv show.