DeSean Jackson is a gang member. Or maybe he is just affiliated. Or maybe he just knows someone who is or was a gang member.
At least that is the story on the web; an unconfirmed rumor made fact by news reports.
First, it a serious violation of journalism ethics to just print something without multiple sources to confirm facts. So whether or not the Philadelphia Eagles released a report stipulating possible gang affiliation, a reporter should have found concrete proof of such an allegation. Largely, the blame of this problem goes to NJ.com, which initially broke the story.
Furthermore, no one asked Jackson whether the allegations are true until after the fact. That is a second violation of basic journalism ethics, not to mention basic human ethics. If someone wants a rumor confirmed, that person should go directly to the person whom the rumor is about. Sure, people could lie, but at least give them social due process.
Such a comment could damage Jackson’s career — which it luckily didn’t because the Washington Redskins picked him up — and, if proven false, could be deemed libelous. Jackson said in an interview with ESPN that the allegation is “wrong and disrespectful.”
If he is being honest, then the Eagles — as well as NJ.com and all subsequent news sources — pushed the line too far. Under no circumstance should such an allegation go to the public without concrete verification.
So, naturally, the news sources and the Eagles hid behind the words “gang affiliation.” Those words mean nothing, realistically.
Someone could deem gang affiliation as seeing a shooting, which in Jackson’s self-admitted “hard” neighborhood in Long Beach is a possibility.
It may also mean that Jackson knew someone in a gang. Simply by talking to or knowing a person in a gang violates no law. Through the various six degrees of separation, there are millions of people, and probably quite a few pro football players, who have “gang affiliations” under that meaning.
But it does not say that he was or is a member of a gang, which would be the only violation of law listed thus far. If such is the case, then the Eagles or NJ.com would need to prove that.
It seems unlikely that a football player based in Philadelphia could have a strong affiliation with any Long Beach gang. Rather than smearing a person’s name all over the Internet, reporters and news organizations should do their due diligence and report accurately and fairly.
Juliet Suess is a senior ECLS major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @WklyJSuess.