Lamar Jackson Calls Out ESPN Reporter for ‘Defamation of My Character’

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

Getty The former league MVP's wants responds to having his character called into question.

Following the Baltimore Ravens’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in which the defense gave up a 9-point lead in the fourth quarter, quarterback Lamar Jackson committed one of the cardinal sins of postgame behavior: responding to a Twitter user with vulgar language and a term that was interpreted as homophobic by ESPN Ravens beat reporter Jamison Hensley.

After Hensley accused Jackson of using an “anti-gay phrase” in a November 27 article, Jackson tweeted the next morning to Hensley, accusing the writer of “defamation of my character.”

“This is Defamation of my character,” wrote Jackson, who had already deleted the tweet containing the profanity. “Because not once have I ever mentioned or disrespect anyone’s Sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, Religion or Race. Your reaching…”

The phrase that Jackson used in his tweet — “eat d***” — has dozens of reader-submitted definitions on Urban Dictionary, including “a generic yet abrasive comeback to a verbal attack,” the most accepted definition by the site’s users.

Hensley has been an NFL reporter since 1999, when Jackson was 2 years old, and has been covering the Ravens since 2013, according to ESPN. He was deemed Maryland Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association in 2018.

The Issue Has Already Been Addressed Internally

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh described the incident as “out of character” for Jackson when he addressed the media on November 28.

“What he said was just so out of character for him; that’s not the way he speaks, that’s not the way he talks, it’s not the words he ever uses,” he said. “I’ve never heard him say things like that before.”

Harbaugh didn’t absolve Jackson of his role in the social media incident, but he advised Jackson and the rest of his players not to get trapped “by someone who’s baiting you just a little bit” because nothing good can come of it.

“You just beg guys not to get into the Twitter world right after the game, especially after a loss,” Harbaugh said. “It’s never going to be positive. It’s not going to be a nice place. That’s kind of reflected in Lamar [Jackson]’s response.”



ESPN Analyst Comes to Jackson’s Defense

One of Hensley’s ESPN colleagues saw Jackson’s tweet in a different light.

“It looked to me like [Jackson] was cussing the dude out,” said Stephen A. Smith on the November 28 episode of “First Take.” “[He was] very, very frustrated [and] he went the hell off. There’s a lot of people that get cussed out, and when you [are] cussing folks out, you say some things sometimes. That’s how I read that: cussing somebody out — as opposed to going where folks might go with that.”

He prefaced his comments by saying, “I’m not a homosexual, so I’m not going to define what’s offensive to them or not, I’ll let them do that.” Smith went on to say that the aforementioned Twitter user “had a point” to a degree in his criticism of Jackson and the Ravens.

“I wouldn’t say had a point where they shouldn’t give Lamar Jackson his money,” Smith said. “He’s saying, ‘You ain’t enough, bro’ — based on what we’re seeing.”

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