- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 1, 2014


The story that the Philadelphia Eagles used to send DeSean Jackson packing was that they were concerned about his gang connections, which of course paints a nightmare Aaron Hernandez scenario.

It hasn’t seemed to scare off the Washington Redskins, though. Jackson came to town Monday night for dinner with the Redskins brain trust and then, according to photographs posted on social media, went out to the clubs with some future Redskins teammates.

That’s a good recruiting tool, since he could use some welcome territory. According to CSN Philadelphia, Jackson is persona non grata in some Philly clubs.

“There have been a number of nightclubs in the area that have basically told DeSean or told DeSean through second parties, ‘We don’t want you back in our nightclubs because he is a disruptive factor,’” CSN Philadelphia reported.

The experience of the New England Patriots and Aaron Hernandez behind bars, facing murder charges, would seem to be a giant red flag for any team that would want Jackson on its roster.

But the reality is that most NFL franchises could field a special teams unit full of players with red flags. If teams stayed away from players with bad associations and outrageous lifestyles, the NFL would be 7 on 7 football.

This organization, under Sheriff Mike Shanahan, put up with an undrafted free agent like Brandon Banks, who was stabbed in a nightclub fight, for three years with the hope that he could play on the league.

What do you think they will put up with for DeSean Jackson?

The Baltimore Ravens are considered one of the best organizations in football, but they could put out a team calendar of criminals. America has seen the video of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator in an Atlantic City casino. He has been charged with aggravated assault, yet the Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, has come and said publicly that they are sticking by Rice.

The Redskins have already welcomed back safety Brandon Meriweather, who came to town two years ago and promptly was arrested for driving while intoxicated, telling police he was driving home from a club, but he couldn’t remember what club.

I’ll bet it wasn’t the National Press Club.

Those clubs, they can be a problem. Sometimes, in Jackson’s case, it is the patron and the crowd he runs with.

One time, though, it involved the club owner — in perhaps the highest-profile gang connection controversy in NFL history before Hernandez in New England.

Gang connections nearly ended Joe Namath’s career.

In 1969, the NFL forced Namath to sell his New York nightclub because of “gang” connections.

Oh, we may look at Mafia gang connections differently than the Bloods and the Crips today, thanks to Mario Puzo and his Godfather story that personalized the Mafia into the American immigrant success story. But the business — drugs, prostitution — is still the same, as are the victims.

Jackson may have been questioned, as reports claim, about his knowledge of a suspected gang-related shooting in 2010 — though, according to NJ.com, he was not a witness nor was part of the case.

Namath was questioned in 1969 about some of his regular customers at Bachelor’s III, the New York nightclub he owned — mobsters, one of them being Carmine “Junior” Persico, a Columbo family hit man who was reportedly involved in the murder of crime boss Alberta Anastasia, among others, and was facing numerous federal racketeering charges when he was hanging out at Namath’s club. He went to prison nearly 20 years later for murder, extortion, and other charges.

According to Mark Kriegel’s excellent Namath biography, New York police told the NFL that Namath’s bar was a hangout for “con men, fences, bookmakers and of course made men.”

NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle told Namath he had to sell the club. Namath initially refused and publicly declared his retirement — this coming on the heels of the Super Bowl III victory. But Namath relented and sold the club

“Continuation of such associations after learning of a person’s undesirable background is cause for deep concern,” Rozelle said in a statement. “Such conduct gives the appearance of evil.”

We’re not hearing any proclamations of “evil” coming out of Roger Goodell’s office about Jackson, so how truly bad were the Eagles‘ fears about Jackson’s alleged gang connections?

DeSean Jackson’s biggest crime may have been he didn’t want to connect with Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly’s gang.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com

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