After two days of combatively defending Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, former NBA player Stephen Jackson apologized for his choice of words while talking with CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday.
The contentious interview with Lemon was preceded by a report from CNN on DeSean Jackson’s Instagram story post featuring fake quotes from Adolf Hitler about a Jewish conspiracy against Black people, his apologies and Stephen Jackson’s defense of the player. One columnist was quoted as saying that defense “obliterated” the good will created by the basketball player’s role in the protests following the killing of his friend George Floyd.
Stephen Jackson opened the interview by saying he “laughed” at CNN’s summary of the situation, then got into why he believed his defense of DeSean Jackson was misunderstood.
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson tells CNN’s @DonLemon it was never his intent to defend a series of anti-Semitic posts from Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
“I apologize for using the wrong words.” https://t.co/eJPI3kglFL pic.twitter.com/DhnHkMOTO8
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) July 9, 2020
“Nobody can find a video or article of me saying I hate anybody,” Jackson said. “Maybe I could have been more clear on what I thought DeSean was correct about, but I didn’t feel the need to go into a conversation that me and him had about how they was treating him and Riley Cooper. I could have changed those words, but the people that know me, my Jewish friends that I talked to today, they know that the last thing I was spewing was to defend Hitler or any other post.”
In that comment, Jackson is addressing his initial reaction to the DeSean Jackson backlash, for which context is important to understand both why he saw a backlash himself and why he thinks his comments were misconstrued.
Jackson posted his first video hours after the Eagles released a statement condemning their player’s posts. DeSean Jackson had also posted an apology on Instagram, saying he didn’t intend to offend the Jewish community with his fake Hitler quote.
It was in that context, with the Eagles criticizing their player and Jackson apologizing for a clearly anti-Semitic post, that Stephen Jackson defended the player, saying he was “speaking the truth.” He also compared the situation to the infamous Riley Cooper incident, in which the former Eagles player was criticized and fined, but kept on the team after saying the N-word on video.
A full transcript of Jackson’s first reaction video:
So I just read a statement that the Philadelphia Eagles posted regarding DeSean Jackson’s comments. He was trying to educate himself, educate people and he’s speaking the truth. Right? He’s speaking the truth. You know he don’t hate nobody, but he’s speaking the truth, the facts that he know and try to educate others. But y’all don’t want us to educate ourselves.
If it’s talking about the Black race, y’all ain’t saying nothing about it. They killing us, police killing us and treating us like s---. Racism at an all-time high, but ain’t none of you NFL owners spoke up on that. Ain’t none of you teams spoke up on that. But the same team had a receiver that say the word n----- publicly, and they gave him an extension. I play for the Big 3. We have a Jewish owner. He understands where we stand and some of the things we say, but it’s not directed to him. It’s the way we been treated. Philadelphia, y’all need to repost this.
It’s not hard to see how people took that as a defense of a fake Hitler quote, because that was the only visible thing he could be reacting to.
However, Jackson appears to say in his CNN interview that he had actually spoken with DeSean Jackson before posting the video and was reacting to that instead of the Hitler quote. He made the same argument in an Instagram video posted before the interview, in which he said the video directly stemmed from a conversation with the player, not the Hitler quote.
Of course, Jackson didn’t indicate he had talked to the player in his post, and made little effort to clarify that as the backlash mounted.
Stephen Jackson: ‘I could have changed my words’
Jackson was also confronted with a comment he made in a conversation on Instagram Live, where he threw out an anti-Semitic trope by saying the Jewish Rothschild family “owns all the banks.” He defended that comment by saying it was taken out of context and that it was in response to his guest saying money isn’t associated with Jews.
Lemon asked Jackson if he understood the harm of defiantly pushing anti-Semitic tropes and why people were taking offense.
“I totally understand what you’re saying, but that was never my intent,” Jackson said. “I apologize for using the wrong words, as I first stated when I got on here. I could have changed my words, but there was nothing I said that I support any of that. There’s nothing I said that I hate anybody. I apologize for my words and I could have switched up, but that’s the end of it. I know I love everybody and that’s how I always stand.”
Jackson also answered affirmatively when asked if he understood what he said was wrong. The interview did not cover Jackson’s stated support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Semitic extremist.
Jackson followed up the interview with a post on his Instagram story in which he apologized against to the Jewish community.
“To my Jewish community I apologize,” Jackson wrote. “Never my intentions to hurt any of u. Love for all who have love for all.”
The same night, Jackson also posted he would be holding an Instagram Live with Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles’ Sinai Temple.
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