CBSSports.com National Columnist

Jackson's choice of words unacceptable -- and stupid

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The time will come, and it's not all that far away, when DeSean Jackson will be ashamed of what he said on the radio. Ashamed. Because the time is coming, and it's coming fast, when homophobic slurs like the torrent Jackson unleashed a few days ago will be considered as shameful as racist or sexist slurs are right now.

It'll be considered shameful by everyone, I mean. Even by DeSean Jackson.

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You don't need a crystal ball to know that. You don't need to be all that compassionate or politically correct to know homophobia is the new racism, the new sexism.

And people get fired for being racist or sexist.

Ask Eric Deters, a (former) talk-radio host who was fired last month from WLW-AM in Cincinnati after posting a video of himself on Facebook where he said, "If you want to conquer an African nation, send white women and pot." Ask Ron Franklin, a (former) ESPN announcer who was fired earlier this year after telling colleague Jeannine Edwards, "Listen to me, sweet baby, let me tell you something."

Not that DeSean Jackson will be fired for mocking a caller on the Sirius XM's All Out Show with Rude Jude and Lord Sear -- where Jackson was taking calls on June 30 -- by saying the listener was a "gay-ass f-ggot." He apologized a few days later, issuing a statement where he said: "I got very heated with the caller, took it a bit too far and did not mean to offend anybody. I meant no disrespect and a better choice of words was needed."

Decent apology. Doesn't change the fact that Jackson's stupid. He's stupider than NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah were earlier this year when they were caught -- in the heat of the moment, during games, from the bench -- calling someone "f-ggot." Bryant muttered the word under his breath at a referee. Noah spit it angrily at a crude, heckling spectator.

Bryant and Noah were wrong. They were insulting. They were insensitive.

But Jackson was stupid.

DeSean Jackson steps over the line with his radio comments. (Getty Images)  
DeSean Jackson steps over the line with his radio comments. (Getty Images)  
He sat in an air-conditioned room, listened to some anonymous soul out there in radio land -- a face he couldn't see, a name he didn't know, a voice he would forget by the end of the show -- and then leaned into a live microphone to spew out a sneering, dismissing homophobic tirade. And DeSean Jackson thought he just won the argument?

Jackson lost, because the world is changing and he's one of the last to know. Just like the world changed in the 1960s when certain words once considered acceptable in decent society -- dehumanizing words used to categorize black people -- began to fall out of favor. There are people who still use those words today, but they're stupid people, because those words are unacceptable. Likewise, it eventually became unacceptable to use certain derogatory words to group all people from China, or Italy, or Mexico, or ...

Today if DeSean Jackson were to go on Sirius radio and call someone from China a five-letter word that rhymes with "drink," he wouldn't get away with it. I don't know what would happen, but it would be bad and it should be bad. Using a word like that is a fireable offense. I doubt the Eagles would fire Jackson for using that word, but he would lose fans. He would lose endorsements. He would lose something. Because society has decided -- and thank God for this -- that words like the one hypothetically suggested in the first sentence of this paragraph are unacceptable.

That's where homophobic slurs are going, and again, you don't have to like the politics of this point of view to know it's right. The day is coming when we look back on a word like "f-ggot" and wonder -- as we do with racist slurs -- how we ever thought it was OK to call someone that.

There's an argument out there that people like Jackson (and Kobe and Noah) don't refer to sexuality when they use that word, but the argument is intellectually hollow. The implication is, "I'm trying to insult you, and the meanest word I can think of is a word that means you have sex with gay men. No offense intended, gay men."

Good God, people, are you that stupid?

Noah isn't. Not anymore. Within days of being caught using his homophobic slur, Noah was beyond remorseful. He was humiliated. He told ESPN.com: "Sometimes ... you don't realize the consequences or how much a word can bother people. My mom's best friend was gay. We used to call him 'Mom.' So I'm disappointed because that's not me. I didn't mean any harm to anybody. I don't want anyone to feel disrespected by what I said, and I understand that's what's going to happen."

That's not me.

Noah gets it. He got it too late, but he gets it now. A word like "f-ggot" isn't just a word to millions of people. It's hate speech. It's crushing. And it doesn't matter -- not even a little bit -- whether you approve of homosexuality. It doesn't matter if you believe in your soul that God considers homosexuality a sin.

It doesn't matter, because homosexual people are out there. They're real. And decent folks, no matter what they think about another person's (legal) lifestyle, wouldn't use a word that brutalizes that person's very essence. Decent people just wouldn't do it, and society is getting there. As a whole, we're Joakim Noah. We're getting it -- we're getting it too late, but we're getting it.

DeSean Jackson isn't slowing down this progress -- he's speeding it up. He says a word like "f-ggot" on a national radio show, and the discussion spreads. People like me write what I just wrote. People like you read it.

And you know I'm right.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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