By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—In the previous column on DeSean Jackson’s unceremonious release from the Eagles, I refrained from outright criticizing the team’s handling of this situation because I wanted to hear it from them rather than rely on second-hand information or the speculation from other publications.
Instead of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly addressing the issue head-on and honestly, they chose not talk to the media that covers the team. Their silence allowed a NJ.com story to portray Jackson as a thug with ties to a Los Angeles street gang so they could come up with a convenient justification to cut him and not have to pay him.
The Los Angeles Police Department told the Philadelphia Daily News that they have never accused Jackson of being in a gang nor has he been tied to a crime committed by someone in a gang.
In aftermath of his release from the Eagles and the criminal implications that came with it, Jackson released a statement denying any involvement in gang activity:
“I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible. I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values.”
By not addressing the media, the Eagles not only put themselves in a position to be possibly sued by Jackson for defamation of character, they have created a public relations nightmare with their fans in the African-American community who see this as the team appealing to an ugly stereotype of Black men so they can justify releasing him.
On Facebook and Twitter, some African-American sports fans are wondering how is it that Riley Cooper can get away with making a racist remark while Jackson can get cut from the team for merely being suspected of having ties to a gang.
To be clear, I don’t believe Jeffrey Lurie or the Eagles organization is racist given their years of community involvement in a city that is mostly Black and Latino. Over the years, Lurie has been an owner who has more than shown that he is sensitive on issues pertaining to race.
How they’ve handled the “divorce” from their former star receiver was petty and underhanded. I can understand that Kelly and Roseman may not have liked Jackson’s attitude and felt that the former Cal star probably didn’t fit into the kind of the team that they wanted. If you don’t want a guy on your team, then cut him and be honest about why you did it.
Trying to tie Jackson to a gang, vilifying him as a person and possibly tainting his character is not a way to do business. It makes the team looks like they’re trying to run him out of the league for daring to act like a diva and wanting more money. That’s the only “crime” that Jackson committed here.
You can argue that Jackson shouldn’t have been tripping over his contract and moaning about it a day after your team was eliminated from the playoffs. It’s not like he was coming off like Terrell Owens in 2005 who divided the team in his efforts to get management to renegotiate his contract.
Outside of a being a bit of a diva, Jackson caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. His ability to stretch the defense made it possible for guys like Cooper, tight end Zach Ertz and running back LeSean McCoy to have career years.
With teams now clamoring for his services, Jackson’s release from Eagles is like the old African-American trickster tale of Brer Fox throwing Brer Rabbit into the briar patch. In other words, Jackson might have gotten the better end of the deal.
Now, the Birds have to find a receiver in the draft that better be as good as Jackson or they are going to struggle offensively and the fan base will not be happy. If the starting wide receiver becomes a weakness in this offense in 2014, Eagles fans will blame management for this debacle for years to come.
In street parlance the way the Eagles dealt with Jackson’s release was just downright “ratchet” and classless. Yes, the NFL is a cold-hearted business and players get cut all the time. But you don’t have to disparage a person’s character and rub their nose in it in the process.