Having the luxury of time, I took a day to reflect on the impact of Nate Gerry’s words as tweets he posted as a teenager littered with the n-word bounced around varying corners of the web. Honestly, at first, I ignored it. As the day progressed, my social media timeline continued to flutter with Gerry commentary. Mostly jokes about people trying to figure out what was more offensive, the tweets, or his recent play on the field.
One thing continued to resonate with me though. A saying kept bouncing around my head: They love our rhythm but hate our blues.
As a young white man, Gerry’s throwing the n-word around on Twitter at 16 and 17 while growing up in a town that’s more than 80 percent white is the epitome of privilege and entitlement.
Yes, the racism from the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native is overwhelmingly apparent. Gerry knows the impact those words have as evidenced by his apology and contrition. I guarantee he wouldn’t repeat those words to a group of Black people he didn’t know. Heck, imagine him reading those tweets in front of his Eagles teammates. He wouldn’t. Ask him to trade his position as a white American for that of an African-American, he wouldn’t. Yet, he feels bold enough to try and perpetuate some counterfeit version of Black culture.
Were they just dumb tweets from a teenager or something more malicious that deserves a reprimand? It can be both. Gerry’s tweets were sent years before he was employed by the Eagles, but unfortunately, the organization has already set a precedent in situations of this ilk.
Between DeSean Jackson’s anti-Semitic Instagram posts this summer to Riley Cooper’s threat to “...fight every n****** here” at a South Philly Kenny Chesney concert in 2013, whether verbal or written, the Eagles don’t reflect a zero-tolerance policy relating to ethnic and racial slurs by their players.
You can’t excuse one player and vilify another. Therefore, the Eagles are left issuing another direct yet hollow statement which quells some public backlash but really only sets them up for future controversy when the next Birds player loses his cool or his own social media blunders blow up in his face.
I’ve interviewed Gerry a few times in the Eagles locker room, mostly during his rookie season when the Eagles made their Super Bowl run. I always considered him an overachiever of sorts, a bit undersized for an NFL linebacker but dedicated to the grind of the National Football League.
It’s hard for me to separate the 25-year-old Gerry from how he thought back then. If he wants people to buy into his apology, I need more than a carefully crafted mea culpa. Gerry plays a sport where 70 percent of the players are Black. You can’t just show up to work and act like it didn’t happen.
Michael Vick came to Cooper’s defense in the wake of him throwing the n-word with a hard “r” at people during his concert argument. Who in the Eagles' locker room now will step up to smooth things over regarding Gerry’s transgression?
The thing is, it’s not up to the people offended to make space for the offender. It’s Gerry’s job to accept, embrace and show that who he is now is far from what he was as a misguided teen. Although this all started with words Gerry regrets, this will culminate based on what he does next, not what he says.