All hell broke loose on Friday when the Philadelphia Eagles flat out released their most productive offensive player, DeSean Jackson. Some
feel that they let him go because the team became tired of his lack of commitment to the organization that was paying him approximately $10
million a year. Then shortly after news came out that he was no longer an Eagle, there was chatter that he was affiliated with gang activity
in Southern New Jersey and California. Did the Eagles cross the line by indicating that one of the reasons they let Jackson go was because
he hung around with some alleged gang members?
It was known that the sixth-year pro had issues with showing up to meetings late and was not the most committed to the organization’s off
season conditioning programs. However, former Head Coach Andy Reid apparently turned a blind eye to Jackson’s poor work habits, mainly
focusing on his production on the field. Reid liked his explosive play-making abilities, which led to a few 1,000-yard and 50-catch
seasons. One would have thought his new Head Coach Chip Kelly would have been thrilled with the standout wide receiver’s 82 reception,
1,332 yard and 16 touchdown season last year. However, that was not the case.
Clearly, Kelly loved the production but he was not thrilled with the antics that came with it. Where Reid could live with him missing or
being late to a meeting or two, Kelly could not. And do not think that Jackson holding out from training camp last season for a better
contract did not ruffle the Eagles’ feathers. Jackson was scheduled to make $800,000 before the holdout, ending up earning $10 million. I’m
sure there was some residual resentment from that episode.
The missed meetings and the Terrell Owens-like antics on the field surely caused waves for the star, but did they justify releasing on
of the more prolific wide receivers in the game? Most do no not think so, especially in Chip Kelley’s wide-open offense. The first thing
that came to the mind’s of most members of the media and fans alike was that there had to be more to this story than was originally
reported. Then rumors of Jackson hanging out with known gang members started surfacing on the Internet and in other media outlets shortly
after his release.
Jackson strongly denied that he was affiliated with any gang activities. He admitted that he knew individuals that were in gangs,
but he did not have any business dealings or rolled with them on a daily basis. Jackson’s coach at Long Beach Poly High School, Raul
Lara, was quoted in the NJ.com story about Jackson’s alleged gang affiliations as saying that Jackson “started to hang around some
not-so-good people” after his father died. But Lara told the Long Beach Press-Telegram that he did not mean that Jackson was in a gang.
“Gangbanger, what the hell is that about? He’s not a gangbanger. All I was saying was that it was a tragic part of his life when his father
died,” Lara said. “He’s not a gangbanger, I don’t know where they’re getting that from, and I didn’t say that he was. I was close with his
dad and I know that when his dad passed it really hit him.” His high school counselor Debbie Hughes also chimed in, “DeSean is a great guy
— he was a sweet kid when he was in high school, always very polite and respectful with me,” Hughes said. “There was no gang activity with
him. He wasn’t in a gang. That’s not to say other students weren’t, but DeSean definitely wasn’t one of them.” Anyone who grew up in an
urban area knows folks who ended up traveling down the wrong road. I know a number of people who I grew up with that ended up on the wrong
side of law. I’m sure that everybody reading this column can say the same. That should not be held against you.
The rumors of his gang association stem from a murder investigation where the alleged suspects knew Jackson from their high school days.
The investigating officers questioned Jackson and his friends and concluded that the NFL star had nothing to do with the case. That is
on record. There are some reports that the record label that Jackson owns has some artists with questionable backgrounds but there is
nothing that should justify him being let go from the team.
Now in the Eagles’ defense, as soon as you hear the word “gang,” bells and whistles should go off. Look what happened in New England last
year with the Aaron Hernandez case. Hernandez is charged with gang activity and not just gang association. There is a big difference.
There are also rumors that Jackson flashed gang signs when he scored last year in a game against the Washington Redskins. If that is the
case, he showed poor judgment and should have been disciplined accordingly, but not released.
If the Eagles are going to use the excuse that his poor work habits and on-the-field antics were the reason they released him, so be it.
However, do not put it out there that they released him because of his supposed gang affiliations, especially if no one is going to put their
name behind the reports. Gang activity is a scarlet letter on anyone’s resume and those rumors could seriously affect his ability to earn a
living in the future.
Now it is reported that Jackson is on the verge of signing a deal with the Washington Redskins. Would that not be poetic justice if he comes
back to Philadelphia and scorches his old team? There are a number of teams, including our New York Jets, who are interested in Jackson. The
Jets would be a nice fit, especially since his ex- quarterback Michael Vick and ex-Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhingwig are already in the
fold. Someone will sign him. I just hope that they do not use the gang rumors against him in their negotiations without any concrete
My grandfather use to tell me, “Hang with dogs and you might end up with fleas!” These athletes have to be very careful with whom they
hang with. No one is telling them to diss or shun their old friends. I just hope that this will serve as a lesson learned for all athletes
and individuals in general.