Sports OpEd: Thug life
I never like to mix sports and politics. They're completely different subjects.
Sports is a generally good natured and a great conversation topic. Politics, on the other hand, breeds contempt. Nothing kills a get-together like bringing up a discussion about politics.
Disagreements about sports are something you forget about in a couple of hours. Disagreements about politics can change your entire perception about a person, and not for the better.
I can't stand Kobe Bryant, but I can sit down and talk sports with a bunch of Kobe fans in a friendly manner. You cannot put me in the same room with bible-thumping, right-wingers.
Every so often however, the two topics intertwine with one another and spark discussion about underlying social concerns.
You have ignorant politicians such as Minnesota state representative Pat Garofolo saying that if 70 percent of National Basketball Association teams folded, there would be an increase in street crime.
It's not hard to construe Garofolo's statement as racist, given that the demographics of the NBA are overwhelmingly African-American. I wonder what he would have to say about the National Hockey League, given that its predominantly white player base partakes in physical violence on a nightly basis.
And then you have the case of former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
I don't actively follow the National Football League, but my ears perked up recently when I caught wind of Jackson's release from the Eagles.
I stumbled upon an online column by Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who himself was a target of racist attacks a few months ago.
Sherman was defending Jackson and brought up allegations that the Eagles cut Jackson due to a recent NJ.com article that suggested Jackson had "gang affiliations" from back home in Los Angeles.
Sherman did not accuse the Eagles of cutting Jackson because of those alleged ties, he merely stated that if that article played a major role in the Eagles decision, then they were completely in the wrong.
And I agree with him.
Like Jackson, Sherman, and many other professional athletes, I didn't come from money. My family got by with what we had.
As they were able to use their talents to propel themselves into better life situations, I'm hoping I can do the same with my writing.
And just like Jackson, Sherman, and many others, I too grew up with gang members.
My mother grew up in South Central, I spend a lot of my childhood there, and most of my teenage years were spent right across the street from Santa Monica College. I have both friends and family members who are gang members.
And like Jackson and Sherman and many other professional athletes, I will not abandon the people who stuck by me during my worst times. Sadly, because of that, we are judged.
Judged because we do not look down on those we grew up with. Judged because although we are working towards success, or have become successful already, we do not forget where we came from and we use our resources to try and help our less fortunate friends.
It's worth noting that one of Jackson's friends, who was once arrested for murder, had all charges against him dropped due to lack of evidence. It doesn't matter though, Jackson's skin color and social background make him guilty in the public eye.
It's also worth pointing out that in my own experiences, I've seen false charges intentionally brought against people, only to have them dropped in a similar fashion. Again, it doesn't matter, the color of their skin and the way they grew up already deliver a guilty verdict in our backwards society.
It is, however, ok to promote racist ideals as Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper did last summer at a country music concert. Cooper used racial slurs upon getting agitated with an African-American security guard at a Kenny Chesney concert. He actually got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and all he got was a light slap on the wrist. People will forgive you for anything and act like it never happened. As long as you're skin is the right color.
Going back to the NHL, I never see anyone suggesting that NHL players are a bunch of "gang banging thugs" despite their affinity for violence. Yet, Sherman is a "thug" because he happens to have dreadlocks and got a little over-excited during a post-game interview following the NFC Championship Game.
But why is Jackson a "thug"? Because of allegations that were proven to be false and because of how he grew up?
I am a "thug" because I don't leave my friends out to dry, because I can reach them and assist them so that they don't end up dead or in jail.
I am in full agreement with Sherman when he stated in his column that he hopes these allegations did not play a factor in Jackson's release from the Eagles.
Cutting players from teams should have to do with on the field or on the court performances. I really do hope that the Eagles cut Jackson for football reasons, because if they didn't, then they have a serious problem.