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Friday, April 4, 2014
DeSean Jackson: Not in a gang

ESPN.com news services

Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson on Friday gave his version of his controversial release by the Philadelphia Eagles, telling ESPN that he is not a gang member and that a report alleging he belongs to a gang was wrong and disrespectful.

The Eagles cut ties with the veteran playmaker March 28 after they uncovered information about his off-field connections and activities, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Shortly before Jackson was let go by the team, NJ.com published a story reporting that he had alleged gang connections in his native California. Jackson, from Long Beach, refuted the report at the time, and did so again in an interview Friday with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.

Jackson I've always felt I've been a product of my environment, but I've always felt I've wanted to do things the right way.

-- DeSean Jackson

"I actually got a chance to hear about [the NJ.com report] before it came out," Jackson said. "Got a call before it came out. My agent called. How do I feel about NJ.com? From my point of view, it was very disrespectful. I don't think it was right -- straight up."

According to the NJ.com story, Jackson was associated with Theron Shakir, one of two men charged with the murder of a 14-year-old, who police said was shot for flashing a rival gang sign to Shakir and another man. Asked about Shakir, Jackson told ESPN it was a touchy topic because he and Shakir grew up together. He said he took a step back from his friend, however, because he is a professional athlete. Jackson said he had no connection to the incident because he was playing football in 2009, when the killing occurred.

Asked if he hangs out with gang members, Jackson said, "Not if they're doing negative things." He added that gangs were products of the environment in which he grew up and that he witnessed "things" on a daily basis.

"Do I know people who are involved? Yes," he said. "I'm definitely aware of and know certain gang members.

"But as far as being affiliated, never have been in one. I've always felt I've been a product of my environment, but I've always felt I've wanted to do things the right way."

Following his release, the Eagles issued a statement saying they decided to part ways with Jackson "after careful consideration" but withheld further comment. The reasons he was released had mostly to do with "work ethic and attitude," a league source told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio.

Jackson said Friday that a call from Eagles coach Chip Kelly to inform him of his release was a "one direction" conversation and that Kelly only told him: "We're moving forward. I think it's best for us and I think it's best for you."

Added Jackson: "I was sitting there waiting for the reason why, but that's basically all I can (recall) from the conversation. ... I got off the phone. I was like, 'Are you sure? That's it?' We hung up. That was it."

The three-time Pro Bowler signed a three-year deal with the Redskins this week.

Meanwhile, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, told ESPN that the union will look into the circumstances surrounding Jackson's release.

"You're talking to a guy who spent 10 years as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and I grew up in the city ... to have someone come out and say 'gang affiliation,' I'm not sure I know what that means," Smith said Friday. "I certainly know what it means to prosecute members of a gang. I certainly know what it means to be a member of organized crime. I don't know what it means when a team or an official says that there's 'gang affiliations.'

"To me, the real issue is this is the business of football. If you want to make a decision to cut a player, tell a player he's cut. Make a decision. But if you want to smear a player with innuendo or something that is less than proof ... you know that I was very aggressive in calling a few GMs cowards for what they said about a young man coming out of college [former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam]. It seems to me that the same thing applies ... if you want to smear someone and you don't have any evidence."

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.