Steelers’ Banner: ‘Let’s all uplift each other’

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Zach Banner couldn’t sleep Wednesday morning.

He’d seen the anti-Semitic messages Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson posted to social media. Banner wanted to send a message to his own Black community, to the Jewish community and to the broader NFL world.

So he posted his own thoughts on social media Wednesday, an especially emotional video for him because of the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where 11 were killed by a gunman. It occurred during Banner’s first year on the team.

“This beautiful city of Pittsburgh…and we need to understand Jewish people deal with the same amount of hate and similar hardships and hard times,” Banner said on Twitter. “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 elevating ourselves, we can’t do that while stepping on the back of other people to elevate ourselves and that’s very, very important to me and it should be important to everyone.”

He continued: “We can’t preach equality, but in result flip the script and change the hierarchy, if that makes sense. Change your heart, put your arm around people and let’s all uplift each other.”

Jackson posted the anti-Semitic messages on his Instagram, including one that he attributed to Adolf Hitler along with another that expressed admiration for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on Saturday and Monday. Jackson posted apologies on Tuesday night, including one after speaking with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.

Banner, 26, made it clear: He wasn’t looking to rehash or further blame Jackson for posting a passage he attributed to Hitler. Rather, Banner aimed to help educate his communities and further bridge them with the Jewish community.

“I saw his apology video and it seems like his heart is in the right place, but understand that this video isn’t towards him,” Banner said in the post. “It’s towards that idea and mindset that sparked it in the first place.

“There’s a common misbelief 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. You mix them up with the rest of the majority, and you don’t understand that they’re a minority as well.”

Banner was one of the first and among the few NFL players to speak out after Jackson’s initial posts and subsequent apology.

As an organization, the Steelers have been vocal in speaking out against anti-Semitism after the synagogue shooting. Shortly after the massacre, Tim Hindes, a local graphic designer and CEO of TrailBlaze Creative, transformed the Steelers logo by replacing the gold hypocycloid with a Star of David and adding “Stronger than Hate.” Hindes’ symbol of hope has had a lasting effect within the organization and around the city.

In 2018, the Steelers sold shirts with the logo with all proceeds benefiting the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Fund for Victims of Terror. It has also been incorporated into players’ cleats and warm up shirts, and late Wednesday night, Banner changed his Instagram profile picture to Hindes’ logo.

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