Denial: DeSean Jackson has refuted claims he has gang affiliations in Los Angeles. *Photo supplied
Denial: DeSean Jackson has refuted claims he has gang affiliations in Los Angeles. *Photo supplied

There is not one place on this planet, including Bermuda, where a group of individuals do not bond together like family and call themselves a gang.

These gangs are typically formed when its young members are searching for acceptance among a group of like-minded characters.

To most, the word ‘gang’ is synonymous with juveniles, unsavoury activity and the occasional violence to protect their honour and existence. 

Yet, there are exceptions where the gang is the family unit and the connection they longed for. But what happens when an adolescent gang member matures and they make the decision to become a pro athlete?

Should athletes continue to associate themselves with a group that stood by them as a youth or should they sever ties, move on and forget where they came from? 

Last week the Philadelphia Eagles released wide receiver and three-time Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson with no clear explanation.

However, a report from NJ.com was released the same day stating Jackson has alleged ties with Los Angeles street gang members who have been connected to two homicides since 2010.

The report went on to say: “Ever since New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with first-degree murder last summer, NFL franchises have been reevaluating how closely they needed to watch their players away from the field.”

Jackson released his own statement thanking the Eagles organization and vehemently refuting the accusations of gang affiliations by stating: “I would like to address the misleading and unfounded reports that my release has anything to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off the field. I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible.”

Since the release, many current and former players have come to the aid of Jackson, but none with more conviction and articulation than Richard Sherman, cornerback for the reigning Super Bowl champs Seattle Seahawks. In his blog on Sports Illustrated, Sherman wrote:

“I can’t tell you what DeSean does with his time, because we play football on opposite ends of the country. I can only tell you that I believe him to be a good person, and if you think, say or write otherwise without knowing the man, you’re in the wrong.”

He went on to write: “Those men with DeSean in the social pictures and the police reports weren’t his closest friends in childhood, but when his father died and few people were there for him, they were there. Was DeSean supposed to then say, ‘Thanks guys, but now that I’m a millionaire, please leave me alone. In desperate times for people who come from desperate communities, your friends become your family. NFL teams understand that. The Seattle Seahawks get it. The Philadelphia Eagles apparently do not.”

There are a high number of NFL players who grew up in a menacing environment. These players cannot change their past.  It should not be compulsory for them to forget where they came from or who they associated themselves with in their childhood. Instead they should be encouraged by the league to return to these neighbourhoods and use their fame and success by becoming optimistic role models. Our past is a part of us…we can’t change it and we can’t overlook but we can certainly learn it and make a positive impact on those who were a part of it.

To read Richard Sherman’s blog in its entirety, visit http://mmqb.si.com/author/shermmmqb/

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Bobbi Singh on  Twitter @sportschickca.