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Richard Sherman has known DeSean Jackson for longer than most of the people in the NFL. The Seahawks defensive backmet Jackson when the two played in Little League, and Jackson s father coached them.

Sherman wrote about the story published by NJ.com, alleging Jackson has ties to a gang based in Los Angeles, where both Jackson and Sherman grew up. In a piece on MMQB that is well worth your time, Sherman points out how many players are from areas where gangs are commonplace, and distancing yourself from the people you grew up around isn t always feasible or desirable.

Was DeSean supposed to then say, Thanks guys, but now that I m a millionaire, please leave me alone ? Even if he wanted to, he wouldn t have. In desperate times for people who come from desperate communities, your friends become your family. I wouldn t expect DeSean to distance himself from anybody, as so many people suggest pro athletes ought to do despite having no understanding of what that means. Going to college and playing in the NFL creates a natural distance, but we can t push people away just because they re not as successful as us. I can t change who I grew up with, but what I can do is try to educate them on the right way of doing things, help them when they need it, and try to keep them out of trouble.

It s important to remember that the Eagles have not said they cut Jackson because of the reports. But the announcement of his release came in the hour after the report which the Eagles knew about, because they d been asked to comment on it was posted. It also came after the Eagles tried to trade him. We don t know all thathas happened between the Eagles and Jackson.

We do know that the story surrounding Jackson since his release has swirled in this vague space where mentions of gangs and robberies carry more weight for some readers, at least than the fact that DeSean Jackson has been, by NFL standards, well behaved during his six-year career.

Sherman s message is worth absorbing, and remembering when we question actions by theplayers we watch every Sunday (or nightly in the NBA, or NCAA). They weren t born in a vacuum, nor do they live in one now that they are in the NFL. They come from different backgrounds, and represent a spectrum of races, religious and classes, and each has his own set of baggage.

Sherman knows as well as anyone that players who grew up on the fringe are often judged on a scale they couldn t possibly understand.

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