(Bob Stanton/USA Today)
The Philadelphia Eagles release of DeSean Jackson could be damning.
The only thing more shocking than the Philadelphia Eagles release of Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson is the recklessness with which team officials handled the situation and the silence which remains.
An online publication reported of Jackson’s alleged ties with the Crips gang in Jackson’s native Los Angeles. Despite his denial of any association with the gang — which was backed by the LAPD — the seven-year veteran was unceremoniously released by an organization shaken up by what the New England Patriots endured with former tight end Aaron Hernandez.
For an organization consumed with image perception, the Philadelphia Eagles are long overdue for a little self-evaluation.
When NJ.com reported of DeSean Jackson’s ties to the Crips gang out of Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Eagles jumped at the opportunity to drop the hammer on Jackson — who by all accounts was on thin ice with the team after their playoff exit in January. The Eagles unceremoniously discarded the three-time Pro Bowler — fresh off his best season — with sickening arrogance.
Jackson has performed, asked for more money, survived a dismal season, posted career numbers and asked for more money yet again. He’s said and done things which have made me wonder openly about his commitment to the team. He’s also a young man who’s done his share of work in Philadelphia communities, including setting up a foundation for pancreatic cancer in memory of his late father as well as a football camp.
No matter how you feel about Jackson, the Eagles are dead wrong on this one. To cut a player because he doesn’t fit with what you’re trying to build is one thing while attempted character assassination is another. It’s no secret the Eagles have made past attempts to move Jackson, but this latest, yet to be written chapter may have done irreparable damage to Jackson’s reputation as well as his pockets.
There were no sit-ups in the driveway or an interview with an agent on his hip. For Jackson, the allegations of gang affiliation was so damaging his only instinctive recourse was to clear his name.
“First I would like to thank the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia for my time in Philly. I would also like to thank coach Andy Reed [sic] for bringing me in. Secondly, I would like to address the misleading and unfounded reports that my release has anything to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off of the field. 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. I am proud of the accomplishments that I have made both on and off the field. I have worked tirelessly to give back to my community and have a positive impact on those in need. It is unfortunate that I now have to defend myself and my intentions. These reports are irresponsible and just not true . I look forward to working hard for my new team. God Bless.”
The NJ.com story mentions two murder cases, one involving a rapper on Jackson’s “Jaccpot” record label and the second was a murder which took place outside of a building leased by a member of Jackson’s family. Jackson was never implicated in either case.
The murder case involving former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez obviously rattled the Eagles organization. Despite Jackson’s non-involvement in both instances, his association with such individuals gave the Eagles the leverage and the approval of those who saw the team erring on the side of caution in their decision.
Upon their investigation, the LAPD concluded Jackson has no affiliation with the Crips — who have upwards of 35,000 members in Jackson’s home state of California alone.
There’s no Donovan McNabb or Andy Reid to blame this time, this can be placed at the feet of owner Jeffrey Lurie. When Lurie purchased the team two decades ago, he expressed an admiration for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — who subscribed to former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis’ blueprint. Lurie lacks football pedigree and will always be viewed as the guy who just signs the checks, where Davis and Jones grew up in the game, making millions and winning championships with men Lurie would consider less than desirable.
After hearing the “gold-standard” spin for years, I’ve concluded Jeffrey Lurie ain’t about that life.
He should be commended for sticking with Andy Reid as he struggled with family issues involving his sons Britt and Garrett. Garrett passed away in 2012 from an accidental heroin overdose. He also signed Michael Vick in July of 2009 after he was released from prison for financing a dog fighting ring — it took serious beckoning from Reid to sway the owner. Vick was signed to a six-year $100 million deal in August of 2011.
Riley Cooper’s well-publicized racial rant before the 2013 season divided the Eagles locker room as well as the fan base. Some of the more chiseled veterans like Vick and Jason Avant petitioned team unity and forgiveness for Cooper. Running back LeSean McCoy was wasn’t too eager to place the situation behind him just yet.
I spoke briefly with DeSean Jackson while Cooper was on suspension for two days during training camp. The player who has been a distraction at times responded in a way which exhibited maturity and leadership.
“You never want to see a teammate go through that. It is what it is, we have to move on and not let it be a distraction to our season.” Jackson was looking forward to the return of his embattled teammate. “Oh yes, definitely. He’s a teammate of ours and a good player as well, so anytime you have a player that goes through something like that and that kind of punishment you hope he deals with it the best way he can.
In 2013, Cooper (47/835/8) and Jackson (82/1,332/9) both saw career seasons in Chip Kelly’s explosive offense. Cooper was rewarded with a 5-year extension worth $25 million and Jackson has been shown the door. The fact that Cooper was given a new deal and Jackson has been released without a public statement from team officials has caused a feeling of unrest among many in the African-American community. We’ll learn more in the upcoming months but for now:
- Were Jackson’s locker room distractions that great to release him without compensation?
- Why haven’t the Eagles gone public with reason(s) for releasing Jackson?
- Is this all football based?
- Do the Eagles feel they acted hastily in releasing Jackson even after a favorable report from the LAPD?
- How do you sell this move to a baffled fan base?
Until I see and hear otherwise, I’ll stick to my conclusion that the Eagles panicked and owe the fans an explanation.