I do not believe that DeSean Jackson is anti-gay or homophobic just because he directed anti-gay, homophobic language against a caller on a recent radio appearance. I think that people who use such terms the way Jackson used them are more often guilty of being careless than they are of being malicious. I don't think that Jackson, when he said what he said, was accusing the caller of being homosexual or insinuating that he would dislike him if he were. I think he was using a common insult of whose gravity he is, sadly, ignorant.
And that's where the problem lies.
See, one of Jackson's off-field charitable endeavors -- an admirable one, for which he has been lauded more than once on this blog and in many other places -- is an anti-bullying crusade. He goes to schools and talks to kids about the dangers of bullying. He meets and speaks with kids who've been bullied, to tell them not to get down on themselves and that it's all going to be okay in the end. He offers hope, in the thrilling form of a friendly NFL superstar, to those who fear they have no friends or no one to look out for them. To kids who have been called, with extreme malice by others, the exact names he used against that radio caller.
So now, if you're a bully who sat through one of Jackson's speeches at your school, you're wondering why it's okay for him to use that kind of language against others but it's not okay for you to do the same.
And now, if you're a kid who's been bullied and found comfort in Jackson's message and the fact that he took the time to deliver it to you, you're wondering if he meant any of it, since you just heard him do the exact same thing to someone else. If you're a kid and you're gay and you're worried about telling people, this certainly doesn't help.
That's why DeSean Jackson should be ashamed of himself. In a couple of unthinking seconds on a satellite radio station that prides itself on being "uncensored," Jackson undid all the good his anti-bullying efforts have done over the past year. What's worse is that he doesn't seem to have made the connection.
Jackson's Saturday Twitter apologies were pathetic -- the minimalist work of a man who's apologizing because people are upset, not because he's truly sorry for what he did. He backed them up with defiant, all-capital boasts about how people want to bring him down but he's not going to let them. Said he was "standing tall."
He shouldn't be standing tall. He should be sitting sadly by himself, thinking about the impact of what he said and how it relates to the things for which he wants us to believe he stands. He should be wondering what he'll say the next time he's at one of those schools making one of those speeches and a child raises his hand and asks, "So, if it's wrong to bully and call people names, why did you say what you said to that guy on the radio? Why did you call him the same thing the bullies call me?"
Jackson owed his apology to the homosexual community, no doubt. The language he used is offensive to them whether he intended it that way or not. And no one is "out to get" him here. He didn't say these things in his home, or in a private conversation that was overheard and broadcast on YouTube. He said it on the radio, whose purpose is to be heard by as many people as possible. As he said in his statement, "a better choice of words was needed." I'd argue that the best choice in a case like this would have been no words at all.
But the boilerplate apology Jackson issued Saturday didn't address his larger problem, which is what he's going to say now to all those kids he's been trying to help. How can a guy stand up against bullying, and convince others to do the same, when he's just so publicly been the worst kind of bully himself?