The Washington Redskins signed wide-receiver DeSean Jackson to a three-year, $24 million deal on Wednesday, just four days after he was cut by the their division rival, Philadelphia. That's a fairly cheap deal, Deadspin notes, for a player coming off a career-best, Pro Bowl season, but Jackson's departure from the Eagles was anything but a standard roster move.
Last week, the Eagles released Jackson within minutes of the publication of a report on NJ.com that very loosely linked the player to two gang-related murder cases. Jackson was not a suspect or witness in either case, but he did speak to the Los Angeles police because of his personal relationship with one of the suspects who was accused (and acquitted) of murder. The timing made it appear as though the Eagles were cutting Jackson loose because they were leery of his "gang" associations, though there had been earlier reports that the team was already unhappy with his behavior and attitude.
And there were plenty of other people ready to make that association for them.
While the Redskins may simply be taking a chance on Jackson because he's currently inexpensive (and no doubt eager to punish the Eagles on the field next season), there are others coming to his defense as well.
Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman slammed the very concept of "gang ties" in his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column today. Sherman — who found himself on the receiving end of plenty of "thug" accusations after his angry post-game interview in the NFC Championship Game — comes from the same area and played on the same little league baseball team as Jackson, and had strong words for those afraid of players with those associations.
I look at those words—gang ties—and I think about all the players I’ve met in the NFL and all of us who come from inner-city neighborhoods like mine in Los Angeles, and I wonder how many of us could honestly say we’re not friends with guys doing the wrong things.
Sherman and Jackson spend parts of their offseason back in their hometowns, hanging with old friends and trying to help them stay on a path to success. Sometimes that fails, and obviously he can't be held responsible for the behavior of every person he used to be friends with. "Should I give up on everybody out of fear of being dirtied by the media?" Sherman asks. "Sorry, but I was born in this dirt." He rejects the suggestion that he should just forget about his past and just move on.
Sherman also compares the Eagles' treatment of Jackson with how the same team treated Riley Cooper, a white receiver who was caught using a racial slur in a video last year. Cooper was sent to counseling, contributed to the team throughout the year, and got a new deal this offseason. Jackson was cut. "Commit certain crimes in this league and be a certain color, and you get help, not scorn," he writes.
But go ahead and judge DeSean for the company he keeps. While you’re at it, judge me, too, because I still live in Los Angeles, and my family does, too. We didn’t run from where we grew up. We aren’t afraid to be associated with the people who came up with us.
The column received wide praise from sports journalists for its take on the "gang ties" issue, filling in a necessary perspective that few in the mainstream sports media can accurately claim.
Richard Sherman is the best NFL cornerback alive and also maybe the best NFL columnist too? http://t.co/MMGdUrrm3x …— Tomas Rios (@TheTomasRios) April 2, 2014