Eagles Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson is currently under fire for sharing a highlighted quote attributed to Adolf Hitler claiming that “the Jews will blackmail America.” While most NFL players have been silent on the issue, the controversy prompted Pittsburgh Steeler offensive tackle Zach Banner to speak out in support of the Jewish community and against anti-Semitism.
On July 8, Banner posted a video on Instagram stating he did so “to transition from the incident, and move forward as a community. Not to harp on @DeSeanJackson10 mistake, but to progress by educating ourselves.”
In his video message, Banner addressed Jackson’s inflammatory Instagram stories, stating that after watching his apology video the wide receiver’s “heart is in the right place.” However, Banner also felt compelled to educate his fans about the underlying anti-Semitism behind Jackson’s posts.
This video is to transition from the incident, and move forward as a community. Not to harp on @DeSeanJackson10 mistake, but to progress by educating ourselves. We can’t move forward while allowing ourselves to leave another minority race in the dark.#Equality pic.twitter.com/MnLnCCYzQL
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) July 8, 2020
“There’s a common misbelief that among Black and Brown people — and I know this from growing up and I’ve heard it and I’ve listened to it — that Jewish people are just like any other white race,” Banner said. “You mix them up with the rest of the majority and you don’t understand that they are a minority as well.”
He went on to discuss how playing college football for the University of Southern California, where he studied until 2016, enlightened his understanding of Jewish people. “I didn’t know this until I went to USC and I had friends who are now family members, believe it or not, who are part of the Jewish community,” Banner continued.
He said his empathy for Jews was solidified following the 11 Jews who were shot and killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. He said he was hit particularly hard by the attack because it occurred while he was in Pittsburgh playing for their home team.
“I was here on the team, my first year with the team a couple of years ago,” he said. “It’s just tough man…During that synagogue shooting. This beautiful city of Pittsburgh.
“We need to understand that Jewish people deal with the same amount of hate and similar hardships and hard times,” Banner continued, his voice shaking. “I’m not trying to get emotional right now but I want to preach to the Black and brown community that we need to uplift them and put our arms around them just as much. When we talk about Black Lives Matter and talk about elevating ourselves, we can’t do that while stepping on the back of other people to elevate ourselves.”
On July 6, Jackson apologized for sharing his post in an Instagram story. “Anyone who feels I have hate towards the Jewish community took my post the wrong way,” he wrote. “I have no hatred in my heart towards no one!!”
However, the wide receiver then re-shared a passage of the falsely-attributed Hitler quote, claiming Jews will “extort America” and that “their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were.”
Jackson then posted a video apology on July 7 stating, “I didn’t really realize what this passage was saying. Hitler has cause terrible pain to the Jewish people like the pain African Americans have suffered. We should be together fighting anti-Semitism and racism. This was a mistake to post this and I truly apologize for posting it.”
In his video message, Banner concluded: “We can’t preach equality but as a result just try to flip the script and change the hierarchy.”
Banner’s heartfelt message to Jewish fans has been well received.
Thank you for your beautiful words and for standing with the Jewish community against all forms of hatred and bigotry, @ZBNFL.
America is at its best when we see each other as equals. https://t.co/A8igGlkGRh
— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) July 8, 2020
ADL Philadelphia thanked Banner for “urging us all to be part of the fight against hate.” The American Jewish Committee wrote: “Thank you for your beautiful words and for standing with the Jewish community against all forms of hatred and bigotry.”
Among numerous Jews dubbing Banner a “mensch,” was Fantasy Football expert and New York Times best selling author Matthew Berry. “To the best of my knowledge (I’d love to be wrong here — please send me any I have missed) the Steelers @ZBNFL is the first and only current NFL player to condemn DeSean Jackson’s anti-Semitic IG posts,” Berry wrote. “Appreciate you and your words, Zach.”
Banner responded to the support he’s received. “I stand in solidarity with all my Jewish brothers and sisters,” he tweeted with a GIF of him dancing with Adam Sandler and Jerry Seinfeld. “So now I’m just wondering… where the family bbq at?”
I just came back to my phone…
I stand in solidarity with all my Jewish brothers and sisters.
So now I’m just wondering… where the family bbq at? 😂 pic.twitter.com/4rurVnxakr
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) July 8, 2020