MURPHY: Jackson's Instagram ignorance puts his fate in hands of Lurie, Roseman
For Jeffery Lurie and Howie Roseman, it might be the most difficult personnel decision of their careers.
For the rest of us, it will be as easy as sitting back and listening to what they have to say. That might not sound like the hottest of takes, but in a world that increasingly feels like a never-ending public tribunal, perhaps it should count.
It’s never easy to defer judgment when somebody suggests that maybe we should all hear Adolf Hitler out, as DeSean Jackson did on Monday night when he posted a purported quote from the late fuhrer on his Instagram page. At the very least, he is a raging ignoramus who is in desperate need of both a history lesson and a worldview centered around something other than himself. And, given the blatant anti-Semitic overtones of the passage in question, it is impossible to rule out that he is something far more insipid.
Either way, there is more than enough evidence to support an argument that Jackson’s days representing the Eagles should be through, and that his bosses would be doing themselves and the world a favor by decoupling their organization from the platform of someone so ill-informed.
Bosses with Jewish roots: Yet it is the identities of those bosses that make this a far different case from previous stay-or-go dilemmas. Lurie, the Eagles’ longtime owner, grew up in a Jewish family in New England. His late mother is buried in a Jewish cemetery north of Boston. Roseman, who has overseen personnel decisions since returning from a one-year demotion in 2016, was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame a little over a year ago. Whatever the current state of their personal faiths, it is difficult to imagine that any of us is in a position to arrive at a more informed judgment of Jackson’s fate than two men who know him as well as anybody in the NFL, and also happen to be Jewish.
Whether this dynamic works in or against Jackson’s favor remains to be seen. The team issued a statement calling Jackson's Instagram message "offensive, harmful, and absolutely appalling." The team did not, however, mention any sanctions for Jackson.
Roseman spent more than a decade working alongside former Eagles general manager Joe Banner, who frequently uses his Twitter account to raise awareness of anti-Semitism. Now retired, Banner spent much of Tuesday morning condemning Jackson and imploring members of the media to do the same. He did not call for a specific punishment against the wide receiver, but anybody who follows Banner should understand the gravity of sentiments like those that Jackson posted, and should at least afford Lurie and Roseman the benefit of the doubt that they will assign them commensurate weight.
At the same time, it should not surprise anybody if Lurie and Roseman extend that benefit to Jackson, who has issued an apology for his statements. The lines between bigotry and ignorance and openness and obstinance are difficult to define without the ability to look into another person’s eyes. There’s an argument to be made that those lines shouldn’t matter, that the ends to which anti-Semitism have historically led are so severe that those who further them should be dealt with regardless of education or intention. Yet the same argument can be made about racism, which means that Lurie and Roseman will be unable to escape some consideration of a previous decision that remains the most controversial of their tenure.
The Cooper case: After Riley Cooper was caught on tape using a racial slur during a confrontation with security guards at a Kenny Chesney concert in 2013, the Eagles faced enormous pressure to release the white wide receiver. Instead, they fined him, encouraged him to seek counseling, and released a statement.
“In meeting with Riley yesterday, we decided together that his next step will be to seek outside assistance to help him fully understand the impact of his words and actions,” the Eagles’ statement said. “He needs to reflect. As an organization, we will provide the resources he needs to do so.”
Releasing Jackson: One year later, when the Eagles made the surprising decision to release Jackson, a report that cited their concerns over possible gang ties led to questions about the extent to which racial veils were impacting their decision-making. These were legitimate questions then, and Lurie and Roseman would be wise to wrestle with them now. Any decision to part ways with Jackson would reek even further of double standard, particularly to those of us who remain perplexed that the Eagles sided with Cooper over those in their locker room he may have offended.
At the same time, Lurie and Roseman shouldn’t let past mistakes create future ones. If they decide Jackson’s Instagram actions are reflective of an individual whose continued employment would be corrosive to either the organization or society at large, they should act on those convictions. Likewise, if they decide the greater good can be served by using the incident as a teaching moment, they should afford this ignorant wide receiver the same level of grace they granted to the last one. At the moment, the only thing the rest of us can do is wait to hear their explanation.