March 30th, 2014 § 2 Comments
You’ve probably heard, DeSean Jackson was cut by the Eagles. After the most productive season of his seven year NFL career, Jackson finds himself unemployed. Not only did The Eagles not trade their All Pro receiver, they were willing to take a hit of over 6 million in dead cap space to send Jackson packing. In other words, they wanted him gone. Bad.
He’s the right age, 27. Last season, DeSean posted 9 TDs and 1,300+ yds. And the dude still has speed to burn – 2nd among active receivers in yards per at 17+ and tied with Megatron with 12 TDs of over 50 yds. So, yeah, surprising that the Eagles dropped him like a bad habit. Actually, surprising is putting it mildly.
But then, conveniently enough came reports that link DeSean Jackson to the notorious Crips gang in Los Angeles. Without getting too far into it, there are Instagram photos, gang signs, homicide investigations, a suspicious unsolved burglary, a Rap record label, and associates who are obviously not Boy Scout material. Stack ’em all up, it’s compelling. I can see how Chip and Jeffrey looked at each other, and decided they’d already seen this movie: All Pro, lucrative extension, gangs, guns, paranoia, murder. They didn’t like how the movie ended in New England and wanted no part in Philly. Can you blame them?
In a statement released through his agent, Jackson vehemently denied the alleged gang affiliation. It is certainly possible that the Eagles were tired of managing their temperamental star, and saw this report as a good excuse to unload unwanted baggage. Possible. Whatever the case, it does raise for me some interesting questions about race and culture. Is it possible for both sides to be right? Can there be so called “gang affiliations” that is unacceptable in certain contexts like … say an NFL executives meeting, but is in another context virtually unavoidable, making the thought of it being grounds for dismissal ludicrous?
When a whole people group is shoved into the margin of society, certain children of that people group will find the position of powerlessness intolerable. When access to power is denied through conventional pathways, other ways will be explored. Violence is often the impatient reach for power. And so for a young man in the hood, gang life is one way to take back some control – illusory as the grasp may be. Sometimes as a whole, they can even represent a protest against unjust systems that “force” a people to seek a certain subversive dignity.
The Rap group NWA is an example of how nefarious elements of a disenfranchised people are elevated to sing their anthem of protest. Not only in song but with their very lives, unlawful to the broader society they reject. In the margins, the world is turned on its head: villains are heroes and heroes, villains. And the lines are blurred. One day Snoop Dogg is on trial for murder, the next he’s at a party with Mark Zuckerberg.
Ice Cube is starring in comedies as a family man. Yeah, that Ice Cube, F*#k the Police Ice Cube is a respected Hollywood Producer. Through alternate ways, some by exceptional talent and sheer grit make it from the margins onto a seat at the King’s table. But even for the select few who do cross the line, the line itself remains blurred.
It’s a generalized, simplistic angle on a complex question of race and culture. Obviously the breath and depth of the African American experience extends far beyond questions surfacing around DeSean Jackson. And this doesn’t even begin to scratch at what is “right and wrong.” The Eagles cut DeSean Jackson. From where management sits, I suppose it was justified. Justified. I wonder. Maybe an ironic word to describe an action taken as worlds and cultures collided to render lines blurred.