Rozner: Eagles chose to teach instead of cancel DeSean Jackson
As cancel culture sweeps through the country like a tornado destroying everything in its path -- those claiming to be the most tolerant displaying extraordinary intolerance -- something rather calm and reasonable occurred last week.
The Philadelphia Eagles could have done what virtually every organization does in the United States right now, and that's immediately fire an employee for a hate-filled, social-media disaster.
Instead, the Jewish owner and general manager of the NFL team fined DeSean Jackson for his anti-Semitic posts, and while deeply hurt and offended, insist that Jackson is committed to learning about thousands of years of anti-Semitism.
This was a measured approach and unusual in today's climate.
Cancel culture doesn't allow the canceled to grow or learn. Ignorance is an explanation that doesn't excuse hate, but equally swift and angry reactions don't advance the process. They merely give the bigoted another reason to dig in their heels and excuse their own vile thoughts.
Jackson has apologized and now seems to understand his mistake of posting anti-Semitic remarks attributed to Adolf Hitler -- remarks, ironically, that Hitler didn't make -- and by the end of the week was meeting with Jewish community leaders and a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor, accepting an invitation to visit Auschwitz.
A couple of athletes were condemned for backing Jackson, but few rallied against his remarks, prompting those who did to wonder where the outcry was all week. If "Silence is Compliance," they wondered, where were all the athletes speaking out against bigotry?
Why is anti-Semitism so easily dismissed or ignored when today it is the worst it has been in 50 or 60 years both here and abroad? This is a question Jews ask themselves frequently, but mostly in whispers.
ESPN's Sage Steele went off during a "SportsCenter" segment Thursday night, asking why so many athletes have been absent during the Jackson controversy.
Expressing her frustration at the lack of outrage over Jackson's posts, Steele asked on social media, "Are we all in on holding (people) accountable for insensitive remarks? Or only when it's convenient for us?"
During a painful week, there were moments of sheer wonder, tears-inducing support from men like Steelers tackle Zach Banner, who shared his feelings over several days in a series of videos and tweets.
"There's a common misbelief among Black and Brown people -- and I know this from growing up and I've heard it and I've listened to it -- that Jewish people are just like any other white race," Banner said. "You mix them up with the rest of the majority and you don't understand that they are a minority as well."
Banner mentioned being with the Steelers in 2018 when a gunman murdered 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh during Shabbat services.
"We need to understand that Jewish people deal with the same amount of hate, similar hardships and hard times," Banner said in a video. "We need to uplift them and put our arms around them just as much when we talk about (Black Lives Matter) and we talk about elevating ourselves."
In my home as a child, it was taught that at the intersection of all races and religions is where we can work toward equality and an end to hate, but it takes people of courage and character to have those conversations.
Said Banner, "(We) can only progress by educating ourselves. We can't move forward while allowing ourselves to leave another minority race in the dark."
"I'm not going to lie," Banner said. "The lack of empathy from my brothers and the NFLPA toward the DeSean Jackson situation is weak at heart. It's bull crap. It's horrendous.
"When one of us does something dumb and makes a mistake like that, we need to hold each other accountable."
On Saturday, Banner posted a video of Holocaust survivor Judah Samet, also a survivor of the synagogue shooting, in which Samet discusses choosing not to hate even after all he's been through in 82 years of hard life.
"These words are hitting me today," Banner said. "Powerful words from Holocaust survivor and Tree of Life shooting survivor Judah Samet. We can't let hate consume us. Lead with love."
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, who is Jewish, invited Jackson to tour with him the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
"DeSean and I spoke for a while last night," Edelman said in a Friday post. "We're making plans to use our experiences to educate one another and grow together."
In a separate video, Edelman said, "I don't want to distract from how important the Black Lives Matter movement is, and how we need to stay behind it. I think the Black and Jewish communities have a lot of similarities."
There was a time in the '60s when rabbis marched arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King in Selma. Overwhelmingly, Jews still feel that kinship.
Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward wrote on Twitter, "Black lives matter and there is growth that needs to take place. As we strive to break these injustices let's not put down other religions, cultures, and races along the way. The way I see it DeSean was wrong. There are many people from (the) Jewish community that I care about.
"The Tree of Life shooting was a reminder of the ignorance and injustice. All we can ask for (from Jackson) is an apology and actions behind the change. Time for growth."
We learn about each other by listening to one another. Through teaching, mutual respect and kindness, you gain understanding among cultures.
It warms the heart that Zach Banner, Cam Heyward and others spoke for Jews, who are often afraid to be too loud, to be noticed at all, especially when anti-Semitism is sweeping through Europe, and Holocaust curricula are disappearing from schools in parts of America.
And good on the Eagles for working with DeSean Jackson and teaching him about a people's history -- about tattooed numbers on an arm and yellow stars on a shirt -- that perhaps he knows little about.
For those who would have preferred to see him fired, we must ask, what precisely would that have accomplished?