Steelers Lineman Stands Out for Reaction to DeSean Jackson Controversy

Zach Banner

Katharine Lotze/Getty Images Zach Banner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has apologized—twice—after coming under fire for anti-Semitic messages he posted on social media earlier this week. While no one is going to forget Jackson’s transgression anytime soon, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner has since taken it upon himself to try to help his followers “transition from the incident, and move forward as a community.”

In a video message posted to his Twitter account yesterday, Banner said he didn’t want to “harp on” DeSean Jackson’s mistake, “but to progress by educating ourselves. We can’t move forward while allowing ourselves to leave another minority race in the dark,” he said.

‘Common Misbelief’

According to Banner, part of that educational process involves recognizing what he sees as a “common misbelief among Black and Brown people … that Jewish people are just like any other white race. You mix them up with the rest of the majority and you don’t understand they are a minority as well,” he emphasized.

“We need to understand that Jewish people deal with the same amount of hate and similar hardships and hard times,” he added, having noted that several of his family members are Jewish.

“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 backs of other people to elevate ourselves.”

In the video Banner makes reference to the mass shooting that occurred at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018, highlighting it as an example of the hatred that Jewish community has long endured—and continues to endure. Eleven individuals were killed in that shooting, which took place while Banner was in the midst of his first season with the Steelers.

Banner’s Video Draws Praise from the Jewish Community

As one of the few NFL players who has spoken out in support of Jewish people in the wake of the DeSean Jackson controversy, Banner has already drawn praise from members of the Jewish community.

For one, the American Jewish Committee—which “works to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel and advance human rights and democratic values around the world”—responded, writing: “Thank you for your beautiful words and for standing with the Jewish community against all forms of hatred and bigotry.”

Other Twitter users replied that they were so moved by Banner’s video message that they made donations to Banner’s B3 Foundation, whose vision is to “build and promote engaged communities within which children are raised to feel empowered, valued and loved.”

Banner is expected to compete with Chukwuma ‘Chuks’ Okorafor for the starting right tackle job during training camp and the preseason. He entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, but played for the Cleveland Browns that season after being released by the Colts. He signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2018 and saw his first playing time with the Steelers last year.

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