(Photo: AP Photo/Michael Perez, File)
On his Facebook page, a friend of mine posted this thought:
DeSean Jackson, big-play receiver, may or may not have gang members for friends, Eagles cut him.
Riley Cooper, average receiver, racist dude who openly used the N-word while a camera was rolling, Eagles re-sign him.
Makes perfect sense.
Can you note my friend’s sarcasm?
His point, sarcasm notwithstanding, merits exploration. For it does seem curious that the Philadelphia Eagles cut DeSean Jackson and kept Cooper, the talk of the NFL last summer after his racist rant.
Yeah, yeah … the rumors about Jackson’s gang ties are disturbing, and anybody who keeps his ears tuned to what’s happening in the NFL knows the league and team owners are ultra-sensitive to whom athletes have in their circle of boys.
Those boys are under greater scrutiny these days since Aaron Hernandez got handcuffed for his alleged role in gang-style murders. Hernandez’s boys were thought to be, well … they were men who lived on the wrong side of the law. You know, his boys were “thugs.”
But let’s not be too quick to paint an athlete and his boys with that word. Nor should a NFL team move so quickly to cut ties with an athlete like Jackson when talent like his is so difficult to replace.
Yet the Eagles have cut him. They have kicked Jackson aside as if his character were the flipside of Tim Tebow’s.
What is most bothersome about what they did was the silence behind it. The team can’t be cutting Jackson, 27, for performance. Call him a prima donna all you want, but last season DeSean Jackson piled up career-best statistics that suggest he’s a big-time playmaker in a league short on playmakers.
Under coach Chip Kelly’s fast-break offense, Jackson might well have played like the second coming of Cris Carter or Michael Irvin. No one can doubt that a second season of working with quarterback Nick Foles would have made the combination one of the best in the NFL.
Jackson is an ex-Eagle now. Despite what critics of Kelly’s cutting him might demand, he won’t be back. The NFL isn’t a place for sentimentality; nor is it much of a place for an athlete with deep roots in hard, tough L.A. hoods.
Los Angeles is a city where violence, crime and gangs seem to flourish. The city has an image that the NFL tries to distance itself from, and teams find it easier to let a talented player go than to look into his life, to see if he is more than what the stereotype of an L.A. man says he will be.
Talent in the NFL isn’t so disposable. For while the Eagles look at Jackson as last week’s trash, the Washington Redskins surely see him as a speedy and elusive receiver who can stretch the defense and score touchdowns. Jackson inked a three-year deal with the team on Tuesday night.
DeSean Jackson will add value to Washington, even if the Eagles considered him worthless. Regardless of what value they place on Jackson’s talent, they surely have no right to sully the man’s reputation with allegations about gang ties that have no foundation.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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