I always thought my first article about the Philadelphia Eagles would be about football, but here we go. As a life-long and die-hard Eagles fan, this past week has been gut-wrenching and devastating. Last weekend, Desean Jackson attempted to quote Adolf Hitler, multiple times, and praised Louis Farrakhan on social media. The post included statements such as Jews are not real Jews, Jews are exploiting America to take over the world, and Hitler was right.
Several days passed before the Eagles organization released a water downed statement that did not include the words “Jews,” or “anti-Semitism.” Desean issued an apology, if you want to call it that, which basically accused Jews of taking his post the wrong way. Perhaps most upsetting to Philadelphia’s Jewish community is that not a single player on the Philadelphia Eagles has condemned Desean for his outrageous comments. Not a single one.
On the contrary, fellow Eagle’s wide receiver Marquise Goodwin responded by defending Jackson on Instagram, further antagonizing the shocked Jewish community. Goodwin challenged a Jewish Instagram user to enlighten him on how Desean Jackson and Stephen Jackson were anti-Semitic. (Stephen Jackson, a former NBA player, publicly stated Desean Jackson’s post was true, even after Desean had apologized.) Goodwin then claimed the Jewish community was “lashing out” at him.
Next, Eagle’s running back Miles Sanders posted videos to social media of him cheerfully hanging out and training with Desean Jackson, in the midst of the whole incident.
Finally, defensive lineman Malik Jackson took to Instagram to defend Desean Jackson and proclaimed, “the honorable Farrakhan” “Speaks the truth.” Farrakhan, one of the most notorious anti-Semites in the United States for several decades, is officially designated as a hate figure by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League. Yet multiple Eagles have publicly praised him in the last week. The players on the Philadelphia Eagles just do not seem to understand why they are being so offensive, whether by defending Jackson, praising Farrakhan, or remaining silent.
So, it is clear that there is a larger issue than meets the eye in the Eagles locker room. Perhaps the issue is more attributed to ignorance than hate. If the latter is true, the Philadelphia Eagles have much to learn about the Jewish community and their plight and struggle with deadly hatred. The Jewish people have endured and overcome countless massacres, expulsions, segregation, oppression, terror, and mass genocide. Living survivors of the Holocaust should serve as a reminder to everyone that this unfathomable atrocity took place not so long ago and not so far away. Ninety–four-year-old Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg has generously invited Jackson to tour Auschwitz with him, while Jewish NFL star Julian Edelman offered to take Jackson to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.
The Eagles should take this opportunity to educate the entire team on the history of anti-Semitism. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman, who are Jewish, should take the entire team first to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, and then join Mr. Mosberg on a visit to Auschwitz. There is simply no better way to educate Desean Jackson and rest of the Philadelphia Eagles on the horrors endured by Jewish people during the Holocaust than visiting these places. The opportunity to visit Auschwitz with one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors should not be missed.
Former NBA star Ray Allen, in his utterly moving piece, “Why I Went to Auschwitz,” wrote of his visit to the Holocaust Museum in D.C.:
I’ll never forget how I felt after those two hours in there — I could have spent two days. My immediate feeling was that everyone needs to go there.
Next, Allen decided to actually visit Auschwitz. He recounted:
I thought I knew what the Holocaust was, and what it meant. I went to Poland with a few close friends to learn more. But I wasn’t prepared for how deeply the visit would affect me. I had seen so many documentaries and films on Auschwitz, but nothing really prepares you for being there. The first thing I felt when I walked through those iron gates was … heavy. The air around me felt heavy. I stood on the train tracks where the prisoners of the camp would arrive, and I felt like I could hear the trains coming to a halt. I had to take a breath to center myself. It was so immediate. So overwhelming.
This is exactly the sort of hands-on and life-altering experience Desean Jackson and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles need if they truly want to make amends and learn from this regrettable episode. Many dedicated Eagles fans currently feel torn between their beloved Eagles and Jewish identity, but I can say confidently that seeing the Eagles visit the Holocaust Museum and Auschwitz, together as a team, will alleviate a lot of the anguish being felt right now. I know once they visit these places they will understand how their words, or silence, cut so deep in the Jewish community. Once they better understand the Holocaust, they can better understand why praising Farrakhan is so inappropriate. How the hateful rhetoric of Adolf Hitler led to unimaginable consequences and how the words of Louis Farrakhan mirror Hitler’s. A trip to the Holocaust Museum and Auschwitz will equip these men to better lead their communities and our country in the fight against all forms of hatred and oppression.