Born To Be Hated, Dying To Be Loved

On Friday, March 28th 2014, the Philadelphia Eagles announced to the media that they had released one of the most explosive playmakers in the league. In a press conference later that afternoon, Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman told the media that the Eagles had become “increasingly concerned about Jackson’s off-field activities and his reputed ties to Los Angeles street gang members.” This comes two years after Jackson had signed a five year extension with the team.

 

In 2013 the electrifying wide receiver had his best season yet, posting career highs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. His uncanny ability to separate himself for big gains gave the offense balance and defensive coordinators headaches. Jackson accounted for a whopping 73% of the Eagles passing offense last season, earning him his third trip to the Pro Bowl in six years. It appeared that Chip Kelly had found the perfect piece for his up tempo style of offense in his first year as Philadelphia’s head coach. In actuality, the team had over-achieved going 10-6 to win the NFC East and make the playoffs after being three years removed.

 

DeSean grew up in the notorious streets of Compton, California. As a kid, Jackson was a standout in baseball and football. His father, Bill, coached both of his son’s teams. One of his teammates he grew up playing with was none other than Seahawks’ All Pro cornerback, Richard Sherman. The two grew up only minutes away from each other and both experienced their share of adversity on their way to the NFL. Despite their friendship, each had a separate group of friends they interacted with.

 

So why exactly was DeSean Jackson released? The Eagles were clear that they believed Jackson were associated with people involved in gang activity. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you Jackson was 100% not in a gang growing up. I can’t tell you whether his friends have done the things police have accused them of doing, because I don’t know. What I can tell you is that the guys that were there for him when he was young, were the same guys there for him on the day DeSean described as the worst day of his life.

 

On May 14, 2009, Bill Jackson succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Bill was a single father to five boys. The passing of his Desean’s mother at an early age left Bill with an unequivocal amount of responsibility. Mr. Jackson worked three jobs to support his boys, but always made time to see them excel on the field. DeSean and his father had a great relationship growing up. Although it took several weeks before Jackson could talk publicly about his father’s passing, Jackson told the Philadelphia Inquirer that, “My father was my best friend and my biggest fan.” Those men with DeSean in the social pictures and the police reports were his closest friends in childhood, but when his father died and few people were there for him, they were there. When a tragic event like that happens, the people who are around are the people who are around. None of this makes him a gang member.

 

As I dug deeper into this particular story, I was able to find some insight into what “gang ties” the Eagles were referring to. Apparently, one of Jackson’s friends back home was charged in the murder of a 14 year old boy. This particular “friend” is allegedly a member of the “Crips” street gang in Los Angeles. Whether he did in fact kill this young boy or not is unfortunately, now irrelevant. The accused man was acquitted due to lack of evidence. Last time I checked, the only person responsible for one’s actions is, that person. Did DeSean know the man accused, yes. Is he to blame for another man’s choices, absolutely not. All this still fails to prove Jackson has “gang ties/involvement”. He also has never been claimed by any of his “friends” to be in a gang. Lifelong friend Richard Sherman, even had this to say, “I can’t tell you what DeSean does with his time, because we play football on opposite ends of the country. I can only tell you that I believe him to be a good person, and if you think, say or write otherwise without knowing the man, you’re in the wrong.”

 

Sherman went on to say, “I look at those words, gang ties, and I think about all the players I’ve met in the NFL and all of us who come from inner-city neighborhoods like mine in Los Angeles, and I wonder how many of us could honestly say we’re not friends with guys doing the wrong things. I can’t.”

 

You might be saying to yourself, “Well why doesn’t he just cut ties with these guys?” Is he supposed to say, “Thanks guys for the memories and looking out for me then, but I’m a millionaire now.” In desperate communities, your friends become family. He just isn’t the type of guy who is going to neglect people that took care of him when he was a “nobody”. Sadly, in this day and age, loyalty has been long forgotten.

 

However, speaking of loyalty, the Philadelphia Eagles displayed just that when it came to wide receiver Riley Cooper. Last offseason Cooper was shown on video yelling, “I will fight every n—– here.” But what did they do to Riley Cooper, who, if he’s not a racist, at least has “ties” to racist activity? They simply fined him and sent him to counseling. No punishment from the NFL, despite its new interest in policing the use of the N-word on the field. Instead, Riley got a few days off from training camp and a new contract.

 

Let’s not forget what many in the media wrote about Jim Irsay after his DUI arrest. Nobody suggested the Colts owner had “ties” to drug trafficking, even though he was caught driving with controlled substances (prescription pills) and $29,000 in cash to do who knows what with. Rather than openly criticizing his choices and questioning his lifestyle, most wrote how poor Mr. Irsay just needs help.

 

I say all of this to open minds to things going on that the media sometimes reports with a skewed perspective. Like Sherman, Jackson didn’t run from where he came from. Both are very active within their communities and give generously to multiple charities supporting local kids facing similar hardships.

 

After much courting over the high profile wide out, DeSean Jackson chose to stay in the same division as his former team and signed with the Washington Redskins. While still in the middle of his prime, Jackson signed a 4 year, 32 million dollar deal. This storyline was talked about when the two teams faced off twice last season. DeSean got the better of his former team in their first matchup, going for over 100 yards and a touchdown. However, Jackson was banged up for most of the second half of the season and therefore limiting his production in their second meeting. DeSean is out to prove that he still has a lot left in the tank. Minus a minor tweak to his ankle, Jackson has looked crisp throughout training camp. Speed kills and he still has plenty of it. Jackson has been bashed for not being a good route runner. That’s something he has taken as a challenge during this offseason. Wide receiver coach, Ike Hilliard, explained that DeSean has been working hard to get in and out of his breaks with purpose in camp. The Redskins have high hopes for the upcoming season. Expect Jackson to have a big impact on the offense this year as Washington tries to bounce back from a disappointing 2014 campaign.

 

He’s been described as immature, a distraction, a gangster, and even a pain in the ass. He’s been told that he is too small and too short to play as an outside receiver. He’s been questioned his whole life, had to grind through adversity, and proved many people wrong time and again. And while most say he is just a misunderstood individual; I say he’s just a guy who was, born to be hated, but dying to be loved.