DeSean Jackson and Rock Bottom for the NFL
As a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, until Sunday, I had a grudging admiration of DeSean Jackson, especially his walk off punt return touchdown punctuating 2010's Miracle at the New Meadowlands against the Giants. As a speedy wideout and punt returner, Jackson's job is to use that speed to elude defenders and get behind secondary coverage in order to stretch defenses across the NFL. With his Instagram post talking about how the Jews know that blacks are the real Children of Israel and are deceiving them in a plot to control America, he did it again off the field to the NFL and sports in its entirety. Their sedate response to what he said clearly shows that the industry's image management policies have destroyed the notion that every sports athlete, coach, commentator, or executive has an equal right to speak his mind.
Sports is downstream from culture
Growing up Jewish, I've been used to rolling my eyes and ignoring various entertainment and sports figures who express some form of antipathy toward our religion or people. It was a little weird when Marge Schott, the elderly owner of the Cincinnati Reds, said in 1996 that Hitler "was good in the beginning, but then he went too far." As a result of this and previous comments calling black people n------, she was suspended for two years and eventually forced to sell her controlling interest in the Reds.
I generally have taken the attitude that overreacting to hostile statements, even ones that are blatantly defamatory, is not the best way to defeat racism. As such, when there were calls in the 2000s to yank Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ from theaters, I felt that it would be better to let the film appear and let audiences decide. The ADL and other busybodies demonstrated and raged against it, and to confirm my hypothesis, it was a smash hit and the highest grossing R-rated film in U.S. box office history. Due to this and several incidents such as a drunken anti-Jewish rant to a police officer, Gibson has become a pariah in some circles. Winona Ryder accused him of asking her if she's an "oven-dodger" (in reference to Auschwitz) during an encounter in the 1990s. But Gibson's career has recovered since the 200s, and the consequences he faced are an anomaly:
- Rapper Ice Cube already in 1991 was asked about anti-Jewish lyrics in his song "No Vaseline" against former manager Jerry Heller, and he acknowledged when asked that it would be pretty dumb to do the things his lyrics advocate for.
- More recently, actor John Cusack tweeted an image of a hand with a Star of David crushing a group of people with the caption "to learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize." He would defend the tweet and then claim that it was a bot.
What about repercussions for Ice Cube? He has starred in many high-grossing Hollywood feature films like Friday and Barbershop and had a family sitcom on TBS for three years. In 2015, he produced the film Straight Outta Compton about his former group NWA that included a derogatory portrayal of Heller. Like Passion of the Christ, his film was a massive hit, this time without a wave of protest. Prior to Jackson's saga, Ice Cube defended anti-Jewish hate preacher Louis Farrakhan from criticism by CNN's Jake Tapper. Displaying blatantly anti-Jewish opinions holds no penalty if you are in the correct industry. Thanks to the sophist standards of elitist Hollywood executives, many themselves Jewish but spineless, people like Ice Cube who express unabashed Jew-hatred are able to live it up in the lap of luxury.
The institutions that supposedly represent the "community", including the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the ADL, and the AJC also released a mild condemnation of Jackson, including at the same time an offer to work with him on "education and outreach." The proper response to this would have been a demand that Eagles G.M. Howie Roseman immediately get on the phone and trade Jackson, or else they will boycott attendance or viewership at future games.
Cringing in lieu of leading
Julian Edelman, a Jewish opposing player, has spoken out and said he is willing to speak to and guide Jackson on a Holocaust museum tour — an admirable gesture, even though the Holocaust is not the end-all, be-all of Judaism. Edelman should instead discuss with Jackson the articles of the Jewish faith. Certainly his reaction is more courageous than that of Roseman and Eagles owner Jeff Lurie. So was Pittsburgh offensive lineman Zach Banner's tweet in which he openly spoke about his experience of the 2018 Tree of Life Massacre and what he learned from it about the perils of not addressing hatred of Jews. Unlike the ten Jewish NFL owners like Lurie that always get glowing coverage by Jewish community media, these two at least aren't sitting in their office waiting for this to blow over.
While Jackson has been criticized by some commentators, the reaction has been muted compared to similar cases for much more trivial transgressions:
- In 1999, Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was suspended without pay for spring training and 28 games for insulting immigrants and New Yorkers.
- Sean Newcomb, another Braves pitcher, was forced to apologize in 2019 for tweets he wrote when he was in high school that were racist, sexist, and homophobic that were stunningly brought to light only after he almost pitched a no-hitter.
- Drew Brees was pilloried and forced to apologize this year for saying he believes in standing for the flag and the National Anthem. In 2019, he was also attacked for supporting children bringing their Bibles to school.
- Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy was forced to go through a public shaming for wearing a One America News t-shirt while on a fishing trip, calling himself a dumbass. Meanwhile, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace has faced no consequences for reporting a noose that turned out to be a garage pull cord.
- Within the same day of footage emerging of him yelling the word "n-----" at a Kenny Chesney concert, Jackson's former Eagles teammate Riley Cooper was forced to apologize and fined by Roseman. Deadspin is using Cooper's precedent as a reason that Jackson should not be cut, but why not trade him?
- NFL and NBC analyst Tony Dungy, a Super Bowl–winning head coach, and football and baseball athlete Tim Tebow were mercilessly criticized or lampooned for their active and vocal profession of their Christian beliefs.
Unlike these examples, I predict that DeSean Jackson's will have no punishment, whether suspension or fine, and probably will be forgotten unless he opens his mouth and says something else stupid. The NFL, like many other sports and entertainment industries at this time, are showing zero leadership, and the vacuum is being filled by pinheads like Stephen Jackson, who come to his defense, and the rare individual like Edelman or Banner willing to show some personal initiative. With this type of social climate, is it any wonder that sports, like the world at large, are descending into off-the-field anarchy that is overshadowing the on-the-field product?