(JTA) — NFL wide receiver DeSean Jackson unleashed an uproar with his tweets over the weekend that featured quotes dubiously attributed to Adolf Hitler — including claims that “white Jews” will work to “blackmail” and “extort” America — and that the Nazi leader “was right.”
Now his most prominent defender — former NBA player-turned-podcaster and Black Lives Matter activist Stephen Jackson (no relation) — is facing his own wave of high-profile criticism.
Stephen Jackson took center stage in the controversy after saying that DeSean Jackson was “speaking the truth.” He proceeded to add several incendiary comments, including a reference to the Rothschilds “owning all the banks.”
Among those rebuking Stephen Jackson were two of the country’s leading sports commentators, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon. The criticism from Smith and Wilbon, both Black, was noteworthy because they have praised Jackson and his emergence as a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Both Smith and Wilbon criticized the substance of Stephen Jackson’s remarks, while also arguing that he was damaging his own credibility as an activist and diverting attention from the Black Lives Matter cause.
Wilbon said the series of comments “undermines everything Stephen Jackson said so eloquently on behalf of Black Lives Matter.”
“He has no credibility now, he has undermined all his previous good work with this garbage,” Wilbon said on his long-running show “Pardon the Interruption.”
The rambunctious Smith got loud in his repudiation of Stephen Jackson on ESPN’s “First Take” morning show on Wednesday. He also said that many in the Black community respect the Jewish community for their perceived unity and noted the importance of learning about the Holocaust.
“What ‘truth’ are you talking about?” Smith asked, speaking about Stephen Jackson. “We’ve gone from George Floyd getting choked to death essentially, to statues being torn down, to tweets … Here we are talking about some post on Instagram … Know what are we gonna be talking about? We gonna be talking about Adolf Hitler, we gonna be talking about getting educated about the Holocaust and the Jewish community and Jewish history, we gonna be talking about those things, instead of issues that directly involve us as Black people.”
Stephen Jackson was an outspoken and charismatic NBA player, and since last year he has co-hosted a popular podcast called “All the Smoke.” He has emerged as a leading Black Lives Matter activist since the death of George Floyd in May.
Jackson — who played for seven NBA teams and won a championship as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2003 — met Floyd in his native Texas at 19, and the two became longtime friends. Jackson often joked that they looked so similar that they could have been twins.
Since Floyd’s killing earlier this year by a Minneapolis police officer, Jackson has been a fixture at Black Lives Matter protests. He was the featured speaker at some protests in Minneapolis, and has been noted in numerous articles and videos on BLM leaders.
But Jackson added fuel to the fire of the DeSean Jackson controversy with his insistence that the Philadelphia Eagles player was “speaking the truth.” He then wrote an Instagram post that some took to be aimed at Jews.
“Your races [sic] pain doesn’t hurt more than the next races [sic] pain,” Jackson wrote. “Don’t act like your hardships or [sic] more devastating then [sic] ours.”
Next, in an Instagram live video discussion with a user whose handle is @kosherwhitewine, Stephen Jackson brought up the Rothschild family, which is featured in many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish international financial domination.
“Do you know who the Rothschilds are? They control all the banks, they own all the banks,” Jackson said.
Asked repeatedly if he thought Jews were specifically trying to divide the Black community, Jackson avoided the question. Eventually he said “No, but I don’t think they stand up for us as much as they should.”
Jackson has cited Riley Cooper — a former Eagles player who was fined but not fired for getting caught saying the N word on camera — in arguments in recent days.
Stephen Jackson appeared to approach an apology on CNN.
“I could’ve changed my words,” he said Wednesday, “but it’s nothing I said that I support any of that.”
“You didn’t hear a word out of my mouth saying I hate Jews. You didn’t hear a word out of my mouth saying I’m supporting Hitler,” he said. “They can twist it how they want. I don’t hate nobody. I’ve been standing for everybody.”
DeSean Jackson has deleted his controversial posts and apologized following a wave of criticism and a meeting with the Eagles Jewish owner, Jeffrey Lurie, saying he has “no hatred” for the Jewish community, and that Jews and Blacks “should be together fighting anti-Semitism and racism.”
In his posts, DeSean Jackson had also urged his followers to listen to the Fourth of July address by Louis Farrakhan in which the Nation of Islam leader defended himself against anti-Semitism accusations. Farrakhan over the years has praised Hitler, compared Jews to termites and spouted conspiracy theories about Jewish power.
Update: Stephen Jackson spoke with prominent L.A. Rabbi David Wolpe on Thursday night and apologized for bringing up the Rothschilds in his rhetoric.