The NFL Players Association is looking into whether the Philadelphia Eagles smeared DeSean Jackson’s reputation before releasing the wide receiver last week. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told ESPN’s Mike & Mike that the NFLPA is investigating "how [Jackson] was released, whether or not there were comments or leaks from the team, [and if] misinformation to the media [came] from the team."
Jackson’s name became the center of media controversy after NJ.com reported the Eagles were concerned about his ties to gang activity. Jackson was cut from the Eagles hours after the report was published. "We’ve always been aggressive about protecting the integrity of our players," Smith said.
Jackson’s attitude, work ethic and lack of chemistry with new coach Chip Kelly were listed as the main reasons for the Eagles’ decision. Smith and the NFLPA are especially interested in the unsubstantiated claims that Jackson’s "gang affiliations" were a major concern for the Eagles.
Smith also called NFL general managers cowards earlier this year after anonymous quotes about draft prospect Michael Sam’s decision to come out as an openly gay man. The NFLPA routinely defends players from slander and false accusations that could damage their reputations. Smith cited the example of Josh Freeman, whose release from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is currently being investigated after team sources told the media Freeman was undermining coach Greg Schiano.
"We went into a deep investigation that’s continuing about Josh Freeman, and the comments that we believe came from team management or the coaches, and that’s an investigation that’s ongoing and we’re going to aggressively pursue it,” Smith said. "If we believe that someone at the team did something impermissible, we’re going to be seeking significant discipline against those individuals. We look at that situation as similar to this one."
"I don’t know what it means when a team or an official says that there’s gang affiliations," Smith said. The innuendo and lack of proof surrounding Jackson’s "gang ties" is enough for the NFLPA to make a case.
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