Zach Banner Tackles Social Issues In Wide-Ranging Interview

Steelers offensive lineman Zach Banner opened up about DeSean Jackson, social progress and the path ahead, among other topics

Zach Gelb
July 14, 2020 - 9:18 am

After posting a video to Twitter critiquing DeSean Jackson’s inflammatory and anti-Semitic social media post, Steelers offensive lineman Zach Banner had at least one friend who was upset with him. This friend thought that Banner was, in essence, a “sellout” for attacking a member of the Black community.

“I know that’s going to happen,” Banner said on The Zach Gelb Show, referring to backlash. “Don’t get me wrong: I don’t take back any of my words or my actions. It just sucks. I’ve been around both African American and Jewish people, and one person says, ‘We were enslaved,’ and the other person was like, ‘Well, we were this. Well, we were this.’ It’s just a back and forth.”

Banner called it a “barbershop debate.” But instead of debating whether Jordan or LeBron is the greatest of all time, it’s a debate about which ethnic group has had it worse. 

“It’s a pointless argument,” Banner said. “Every single group – let’s just identify a white European group. Irish people have been through their stuff. Italian people have been through things. But why are we trying to compare? Why do we have to compare the histories? I want to be careful with my words; I’m not trying to make the same mistake DeSean Jackson did and drag other people in this. I’m trying to make a point. Why do we have to compare the histories? I think it’s important to identify each other’s history. I think that should be something within our education system, and that’s a much deeper conversation. But we shouldn’t feel [like we have to compare].”

Banner, 26, said that African Americans might slip up when speaking out, as they have been silenced for centuries.

“It comes from a history of not being able to speak and have a platform, so this is new to us,” he said. “I’m not trying to give no excuse, especially for DeSean Jackson. But in the past, we have had these issues where no one’s listened, so we put our fist up. In the past, it was needed to keep our brothers and sisters alive at certain points, which is sad, because we were held down and we were oppressed. But now in 2020 – and yes, we still have issues. I’m not saying that. That’s what the whole Black Lives Matter movement means. But now in 2020 we should take the approach of trying to [educate people]. The police and legislation and going after that, the actual guidelines that can help keep us safe, gun safety – there’s so much we need to attack. 

“But to bring it back to myself as an African American football player in the NFL, I cannot allow one of my colleagues to destroy another group on the way there or try to elevate ourselves past them,” Banner continued. “Because then we are being hypocritical. I’ve paid attention to the history of just the world, and there’s always certain groups that say, ‘We need to take over.’ That’s not what we need to preach right now. When I say Black Lives Matter movement, I understand that there’s some underlying misconceptions and other people have abused that term and that wave. I understand that. That’s why I said in the message the other day it’s not about who’s left or right. It’s about what’s right for the community and what’s wrong for the community.”