Leadership Strategy

NFL’s DeSean Jackson’s Anti-Jewish Instagram Posts Demand A Harsh Penalty

On Monday, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson posted deeply troubling anti-Semitic comments on his Instagram page. In doing so, Jackson threw the NFL into another off-season firestorm that challenges the league’s policies on tolerance and inclusion.

On his personal Instagram story, the three-time NFL Pro-Bowl selection posted a quote, which he attributed to Hitler, saying: “[white Jews] will blackmail America. [They] will extort America, their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were.” In addition, on Saturday and Monday, Jackson shared posts praising Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan has a long history of making comments deemed anti-Semitic by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League.

Reaction has been swift. In a Tweet on Monday, former Philadelphia Eagles team President Joe Banner posted a fierce rebuke of Jackson, who was drafted during Banner’s tenure:

 “If a white player said anything about AA’s as outrageous as what DeSean Jackson said about Jews tonight there would at least be a serious conversation about cutting him and a need for a team meeting to discuss. Which would be totally appropriate. Absolutely indefensible,” Banner wrote on Twitter.

On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia on Tuesday called on

 Jackson to “immediately apologize” and to familiarize himself with the “disturbing history of hate and antisemitism” of the Nation of Islam leader.  

For his part, Jackson now insists that the posts were taken “the wrong way.”

“Anyone who feels I have hate towards the Jewish community took my post the wrong way,” he posted on his Instagram story along with the highlighted passage that was attributed to Hitler. “I have no hatred in my heart toward no one!! Equality. Equality.” [raised fist emojis].

Jackson’s comments come at a fraught time for the professional football league and America as a whole. As the nation experiences a wave of social activism relating to racial injustice and systemic racism affecting the Black community, the NFL is not immune to the fallout. Over the past several months, the league faced multiple challenges ranging from criticism about how it handled the fallout of Colin Kaepernick’s protests, to complaints that the NFL isn’t doing enough to combat racial injustice both inside and outside the league. There has been criticism of Drew Brees for comments he made, and later apologized for, dismissing those who take a knee during the country’s national anthem…and most recently, the Washington Redskins announced they are evaluating changing the team’s name in response to criticism that it is racist and offensive to Indigenous Americans.

The DeSean Jackson incident also brings to fresh light how the league addresses insensitive and offensive comments made by players and other league representatives, regardless of who makes them and how they are made. By making such explicit anti-Semitic comments and, as of yet, not fully apologizing, Jackson is staining not only himself, but his team and the league. The NFL, the NFL Players Association, and Jackson’s Philadelphia Eagles teammates have a duty to not only condemn and repudiate Jackson’s comments, but also to continue to expand the education and awareness across the league of how hateful rhetoric can be offensive to the full diversity of individuals that make up the NFL and America.

If it fails to do so, the NFL risks being accused of falling short of its commitment to make the league an inclusive place, free of all types of racism, anti-Semitism, and other exclusionary language. 

And as for DeSean Jackson’s relationship with the Philadelphia Eagles? Jackson’s comments merit a serious suspension and a commitment to both educate himself and others about why what he shared was so deeply troubling not only Jews, but to everyone who values a safe and inclusive America.

DeSean Jackson might be an all-pro receiver, but this time he seriously dropped the ball.

And he should be benched for it.

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