In a stunning personnel move, the Philadelphia Eagles released star wideout DeSean Jackson on Friday, giving up on arguably its most electrifying talent just hours after a published media report claimed the team was concerned over the player’s ties to alleged gang members of the Rollin 60s Crips.
“After careful consideration this offseason, [the] Eagles decide to part ways with DeSean Jackson,” the team announced in a statement. “The team informed him of his release [Friday].”
DeSean Jackson was productive and flamboyant in his six seasons with the Eagles. (AP)
In 2013, under new coach Chip Kelly’s innovative offense, Jackson put together his best season in the NFL. He produced 1,332 yard receiving, nine touchdowns and an impressive 60 first downs. He was named to his third Pro Bowl in his sixth NFL season, all with Philly. He was in the middle of a five-year, $48.5 million contract.
Jackson was part of trade speculation of late, however, and talk that he and Kelly were not getting along.
Then a NJ.com report Friday suggested that the franchise was focused on his off-field interactions with high-level members of the Rollin 60s Crips street gang in his native California.
Jackson, in a statement, first thanked the Eagles, the team’s fans and former coach Andy Reid (no mention of Kelly) and then denied any gang ties.
The statement read, in part:
“I would like to address the misleading and unfounded reports that my release has anything to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off of the field. I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible.
“I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values. I am proud of the accomplishments that I have made both on and off the field. I have worked tirelessly to give back to my community and have a positive impact on those in need. It is unfortunate that I now have to defend myself and my intentions.
“These reports are irresponsible and just not true. I look forward to working hard for my new team.”
NJ.com reported Jackson was questioned, but not charged, by Los Angeles police during an investigation of a 2010 murder that police determined was gang related. LAPD detectives also attempted to interview him over why some documents belonging to Jackson, including a car title, were found in conjunction with a 2012 murder.
The LAPD reiterated Friday that Jackson was never considered a suspect in either murder. The agency sought to speak to him for informational purposes in building a case.
Jackson grew up in Los Angeles and attended Poly High School in Long Beach. He played college ball at Cal in the Bay Area.
The Eagles have given no official reason for the release, but if it isn’t over concerns of his connections back in L.A., then they should. If this is just a coach-player disagreement, then Jackson deserves to have his reputation as a person backed.
Otherwise, the outright cutting of such a high-level player – the Eagles get no compensation for him – so soon after an explosive media story will be seen as a ripple effect from the 2013 murder charges against former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. NFL teams looked into Hernandez’s ties to gang members in his native Connecticut. However, until last summer’s murder charge, there were no major legal problems to scare clubs away. Hernandez is currently in jail, awaiting trial. He has pled not guilty.
Fair or not, that’s where the immediate speculation on Jackson landed.
This could also be the downside of young people’s heavy usage of social media to chronicle all parts of their life. NJ.com published a number of Instagram photos of Jackson with Theron Shakir, a rapper who was charged with the murder of a 14-year-old, although later acquitted of all charges. A co-defendant was convicted and is serving 15 years to life. In another photo (below), the website believes Jackson was making a gang sign for the Crips.