DeSean Jackson's release from the Philadelphia Eagles caused a stir last March, in part because of his talent and reported clashes with head coach Chip Kelly, but also because of a report that suggest that the wideout was connected with gangs in Los Angeles. Three months later, Jackson's past has surfaced again, this time in an ESPN The Magazine profile in which the newly-minted Washington wide receiver implies that he still associates with "certain people" from his old neighborhood. From the piece:
HERE IS WHAT DeSean Jackson will say about the gang rumors: Does he know people in gangs? Yes. Does he associate with "certain people" from time to time? Yes. Is he in a gang himself? No, nor has he ever been.
The profile goes on to explain that there was an "unwritten agreement" between Jackson and the "certain people" he hung out with: Jackson was permitted to stay out of gang activities and pursue his potential as football player as long as he maintained loyalty to the people he grew up with. That loyalty irked his mother, apparently.
"Those guys gravitated toward him because he had structure in his life," she says. "A lot of time I was trying to chase these cats away. I told him it would catch up with him and that people don't understand, so he should leave those guys alone. He told me, 'Mom, you can't treat people like that.'"
Minutes before Jackson was released on March 28, NJ.com published a report detailing his history with gang-affiliated friends. Most notable was his relationship with Theron Shakir, who was implicated, and later acquitted, in a 2010 murder of a 14-year-old named Taburi Watson. Jackson was interviewed by LAPD and was reportedly cooperative, and the incident didn't keep the Eagles, who knew of it, from signing him to a five-year deal in 2012.
LAPD also investigated Jackson for a 2012 murder that took place in a building that was owned or leased by a member of Jackson's family. Police found no evidence that Jackson was in a gang, but they did make note that he had flashed a Crips "C" with his hand during games and on social media.
Jackson addressed the gang signs with ESPN.
"Those were neighborhood Crip gang signs," an LA police detective told NJ.com, referencing some hand movements he'd seen Jackson make once in a game against the Redskins. While Jackson won't call them gang signs, he will admit to throwing up "hand gestures" in a display of that stubborn loyalty his mother describes. "If I score a touchdown or make a play and my boys at home can see me throwing up the area we're from, that's me showing them love," he says. "They weren't fortunate enough to make it where I'm at. All my friends wanted to be in the NFL growing up, but they weren't able to do that and I was. That doesn't mean I forgot about them. They're my boys, I grew up with them, and I'm going to give them love."