Was concern over DeSean legit or did Eagles go too far in cutting WR?
The shock has sunken in now, but we are all still shaking our heads at arguably an unprecedented move. Super Bowl wannabes don’t just cut three-time Pro Bowl stars coming off career years during the prime of their careers every day.
But that’s just what the Philadelphia Eagles did Friday, releasing game-breaking wide receiver DeSean Jackson — approximately one hour after NJ.com posted a story detailing alleged gang ties between Jackson and the Los Angeles-based Crips, and a few weeks after initial reports started circulating that Jackson was suddenly on the trading block.
In the end, no matter how much he skirted the issue at the NFL owners’ meetings Wednesday, Eagles coach Chip Kelly just didn’t want to put up with the daily DeSean drama any longer. Former Philly coach Andy Reid, currently Kansas City’s coach, was the man who fell for Jackson, drafting and tolerating him for so long, even green-lighting his previous contract extension in 2012.
On the field, there’s no doubt Jackson’s loss will be felt. His 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine TD catches — plus his field-stretching gift — will be missed. But not all Eagles players are concerned, which is telling. Two anonymous players told the Philadelphia Inquirer that while Jackson wasn’t a cancer in the locker room, he would not be tough to replace. Then there’s this tweet by starting center Jason Kelce, posted after Jackson’s departure . . .
We just made an extremely unpopular decision, but I couldn't be more excited and happy with where this organization is going!! #FlyEaglesFly
— Jason Kelce (@Jkelce) March 28, 2014
Not exactly “Kumbaya.”
Still, Jackson has never been officially tied to any crimes, and his NFL rap sheet consists of being suspended one game in 2011 for missing a team meeting. So what exactly was so damning in the NJ.com report that helped push the team over the edge on DeSean?
• Jackson’s name came up during a 2010 murder investigation after 14-year-old Taburi Watson was gunned down by two men after flashing a rival gang sign while riding a bicycle through South Los Angeles. The charged shooters, reportedly members of the Crips, included Theron Shakir, a rapper known as “T-Ron” partnered up with Jaccpot Records, the DeSean Jackson-owned record label.
LAPD detective Eric Crosson told NJ.com that Jackson fully cooperated with police when interviewed in 2011 about the crime, but said Jackson was not a witness or a suspect. However, it’s clear Jackson has a relationship with Shakir, judging from Jackson’s own Instagam account — which includes several shots of the NFL star and Shakir together, pictures which now have been removed from Instagram.
• Jackson’s name arose again after a 2012 gang-related murder that occurred at a South LA building that was reportedly owned or leased by a member of Jackson’s family. Crosson said a police search of the crime scene turned up several items tied to Jackson, including a car title, gun permit and several credit-card receipts.
Although Crosson said he tried unsuccessfully several times to contact Jackson, the then-Eagles wide receiver was never a person of interest in the case.
• Several recent reports out of Philadelphia cited the Eagles front office being troubled by Jackson’s lifestyle, especially on social media. Jackson is seen in several pictures he posted flashing the Crip sign. But Crosson also referenced Jackson using the gesture during the Eagles’ 2013 season opener vs. the Washington Redskins, directed toward cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
"You don’t want to see anybody throwing up gang signs like he did in the Redskins game last year," Crosson said. "Those were neighborhood Crip gang signs and he flashed them during a game. He may not be affiliated with the gang, but they don’t [ordinarily] take kindly to those not in the gang throwing up those gang signs."
Jackson was never publicly reprimanded by the Eagles or the NFL over the incident.
• The name of Jackson’s record label also caught the attention of authorities.
Police brought it up to Jackson, Crosson said, when he was interviewed in the investigation of the Watson homicide.
The two C’s in Jaccpot, cops believed, were symbolic. Crips avoid putting a "C" next to a "K" because in gangspeak, that stands for "Crip Killer." Crosson said Jackson explained the spelling by saying the Internet domain name for Jackpot "was taken."
"DeSean Jackson is not a gang member," said EAG Management CEO and founder Denise White, Jackson’s agent. "He’s far, far from it."
• NJ.com accessed court records that detailed a previously unreported Jackson arrest in September 2009 as police said they found marijuana in Jackson’s car during a traffic stop for illegally tinted windows. According to court documents, Jackson was arrested on three charges, including possession of marijuana while driving. Two of the charges were dropped in a plea deal, including the marijuana count, with Jackson pleading guilty to disturbing the peace in April 2010.
NJ.com reports that neither the NFL nor the Eagles commented when reached on Thursday.
• The incident that may have pushed the Eagles to dangle Jackson in trade talks may have been a burglary of his South Philadelphia home in January. Initially, police told reporters that a safe was robbed containing $200,000, a Rolex watch worth $125,000 and a $700 Ruger revolver. On Friday, the day Jackson was released, Philadelphia police admitted a department error on the amount of cash stolen, which was actually just $20,000.
The discrepancy sparked rumors that Jackson may have given a false police report, which the authorities staunchly deny. But this incident was simply the latest distraction to Kelly and Eagles brass.
Separately, CSNPhilly.com also reported Friday that several Philadelphia nightclubs essentially banned the wide receiver and his entourage from their establishments.
“No. 1, since DeSean arrived in Philadelphia, he has been a problem off the field for the Eagles,” [CSN’s Derrick] Gunn said. “There have been a number of nightclubs in the area that have basically told DeSean or told DeSean through second parties, ‘We don’t want you back in our nightclubs because he is a disruptive factor.’ ”
All of the empirical evidence provides a strong “common sense” argument for why the Eagles were troubled by Jackson enough to get rid of him. One Eagles source told NJ.com that the team was "concerned about having him around the younger players.”
But to Jackson’s defense, can anyone realistically be shocked or blame him for knowing gang members having grown up in Long Beach, Calif., a notorious hotbed for gang-related activity? Former NFL running back Derrick Ward may have said it best during a Twitter tirade after Jackson’s release Friday . . .
I'm born and raised in South Central LA. I have uncles who are still gang bangin cousins who still gang bang. But what does that have to do
— Derrick Ward (@DerrickWard32) March 28, 2014
with someone playing football and ballin out for your team? I'm sorry but Every NFL team knows what there players are doing who there hangin
— Derrick Ward (@DerrickWard32) March 28, 2014
Jackson denied in a statement Friday that he was a member of a gang. There is a difference.
The Eagles may be right. The Eagles may be wrong. But clearly the case of DeSean Jackson is not cut and dried.