DeSean Jackson, wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, ignited a firestorm earlier this week when he shared a virulently antisemitic quote on his Instagram. The quote, which was falsely attributed to Hitler, parroted an antisemitic conspiracy theory and claimed that Jews would “blackmail” and “extort” America to cover it up.
As a Jew, I’ve witnessed plenty of antisemitism throughout my life, and I’ve directly received my fair share of it. While I’m certainly not shocked to see a famous athlete peddle this garbage to his 1.4 million Instagram followers, I am absolutely outraged by it.
The post was horrific on many levels. First, for the content itself, which spread a pernicious conspiracy theory about a frequently persecuted minority group. Jews have been scapegoats throughout history, and unfortunately we continue to be used as scapegoats to this day.
Second, the quote was (falsely) attributed to Hitler himself, the man responsible for killing over half the Jewish population less than a century ago. Despite the fact that Hitler didn’t say the quote, it is still absolutely horrendous that DeSean Jackson was willing to promote an antisemitic quote which he thought was Hitler’s belief.
Third, the post had far greater reach than these types of antisemitic theories typically achieve. Jackson’s post was shared with 1.4 million followers, many of whom eagerly agreed with the sentiments. This further normalizes antisemitism and could directly lead to future harm against Jews.
The response to Jackson’s actions has been lackluster at best. The Eagles released a statement condemning the post with very strong language, but didn’t take any disciplinary action against him. Many others have excused or downplayed Jackson’s post as coming from a place of mere “ignorance.”
Jackson himself has offered two apologies, but continues to treat his post as an “unintentional” mistake. He says that in the future he will “educate” himself “to be more informed.” He even had the gall to claim that his intention was “to uplift, unite and encourage.”
At no point does Jackson acknowledge how harmful it was to spread these views to over a million impressionable fans. Neither does he address those fans directly, nor ask them to reject the antisemitic message that he shared.
Unfortunately, at this point the damage is already done. Countless fans have posted their agreement with the antisemitic conspiracy theory. Many others have chimed in with disparaging and bigoted comments against Jews.
Ignorance Is No Excuse
I’m glad that DeSean Jackson has at least taken the step of apologizing, but these apologies leave a lot to be desired. They read as if he is somehow claiming that he wasn’t aware that his post was antisemitic.
Even if Jackson had never heard of Hitler, the content of his posts were completely, unequivocally, clear-as-day, antisemitic. He posted a quote stating that Jews would blackmail and extort America. This was not “insensitive and ill-informed” — it was virulently antisemitic.
Jackson claims that he “unintentionally hurt the Jewish community,” but what else could he have possibly intended to do by posting a quote calling Jews blackmailers?
Some of Jackson’s defenders have claimed that he’s merely ignorant about Judaism, not actually antisemitic. This is a nonsensical defense. Of course he is ignorant about Judaism, but so are all antisemites. This is no excuse for his actions.
Ignorance is not a defense against bigotry. In fact, all bigotry is rooted in ignorance. The only ones who think otherwise are the bigots.
By sharing these incredibly antisemitic and harmful posts, DeSean Jackson has proven his prejudice against Jews, and helped to spread his bigoted beliefs to over one million others. I hope that he now finds the opportunity to grow and overcome that prejudice, rather than continuing to downplay it. Then he can begin the hard work of repairing the damage that he has done.