DeSean Jackson crossed the line.
What he did was hurtful and unacceptable.
It was also stupid, given that the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver “unknowingly” posted anti-Semitic fake Hitler quotes while playing for a team that has a Jewish (Jeff Lurie) owner.
Jackson deserves a suspension and a hefty fine. If the Eagles sat him for an entire season, it would be a just punishment.
But, what the Eagles can’t do is cut him.
Because, in 2013, Lurie fined, but didn’t suspend, Jackson’s former teammate Riley Cooper after he was caught on video shouting, “I will jump that fence and fight every (N-word) here, bro,” at a concert.
“We are shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper’s words. This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society. He has accepted responsibility for his words and his actions. He has been fined for this incident,” Lurie wrote in a statement back then.
The precedent was set that day. If you’re white, you can say racist things and still keep your job with the Eagles.
Now, let’s take a look at how Lurie responded to what Jackson did.
“Regardless of his intentions, the messages he shared were offensive, harmful, and absolutely appalling,” read a statement from the team. “They have no place in our society, and are not condoned or supported in any way by the organization. We are disappointed and we iterated to DeSean the importance of not only apologizing, but also using his platform to take action to promote unity, equality, and respect. We are continuing to evaluate the circumstances and will take appropriate action.”
Is it just me, or was there a harsher tone with Jackson than with Cooper?
The NFL also released a statement on the manner.
“DeSean’s comments were highly inappropriate, offensive and divisive and stand in stark contrast to the NFL’s values of respect, equality and inclusion,” the league wrote. “We have been in contact with the team which is addressing the matter with DeSean.”
This is where things get complicated.
On one side, we have the league and Roger Goodell who have “claimed” to want to do better in this moment when it comes to racial issues. On the other, we have a Jewish team owner who publicly shared a message about racial injustices just last month.
“I am heartbroken and repulsed. There are no words strong enough to describe the horrific deaths and injustices that the black community continues to endure,” Lurie expressed in a statement.
He would also go on to say that, “our hearts give us the capacity to have compassion, empathy, humility, tolerance, love and caring for others who may look or sound different from us. That’s what makes us fully human: the capacity to listen. Support one another. And then listen some more.”
Because if Lurie gets rid of Jackson, it not only means that the precedent he set seven years ago has been broken, but he’s also telling us that when Black people discriminate or say prejudiced things, it crosses a line that’s too far for him to forgive, meaning Black players in Philadelphia live under a different set of standards than their white teammates.
It’s the definition of a “slippery slope,” especially when you consider the importance that the city of Philadelphia plays in this decision. The Eagles practice and play their games in South Philly, a neighborhood that’s infamous for being racist.
Last month, the Philadelphia Police Department caught heat for allowing mobs of angry and violent white men assault protestors of color that took to the streets during the nationwide uprising against racial injustice and police brutality. This is the same city that had to remove the statue of former Police Commissioner and Mayor, Frank Rizzo, due to protestors trying to destroy it, given Rizzo’s history of being a bigot and unapologetic racist.
So, while some are asking why former and current Black NFL players have been so quiet about speaking out against Jackson, it’s because they’re keeping things in context. They’re aware that publicly bashing Jackson supports a franchise and league that allowed Cooper to keep making a living.
“We ask Black people to disavow a lot of people. Remember when President Obama was running for office? He had to disavow Rev. (Jeremiah) Wright. Whites never have to disavow,” said Shannon Sharpe on Wednesday’s edition of FS1's “Undisputed.”
“When whites say something bad in the NFL, they get Tony Dungy. He’ll clean up everything. Where’s our guy? Where’s the person that we have that if a Black slips up, that’s in the Jewish community, that can come to our defense like when they send Tony Dungy out there to go to everybody else’s defense?”
Let me be clear. This is not about agreeing with Jackson or picking a side based on race. It’s about understanding that this is a situation that exemplifies how Black people are never afforded the same opportunities as Whites.
Whatever happens will ultimately come down to if Lurie can, or can’t, tolerate and forgive DeSean Jackson. But, no matter the outcome, an already difficult decision was made even harder by a choice made in the past.
Because in the end, and the beginning, Jeff Lurie did it to himself.