The New York Giants cut Janoris Jenkins on Friday morning, a day after he offered a hollow apology for using a slur on social media.
On Wednesday, the veteran cornerback defended his performance this season by posting his statistics on Twitter. In response to a pointed question about the impact those numbers made on winning, Jenkins called a fan “retard.”
Jenkins made matters worse on Thursday when asked about his use of the word by reporters. New York waived him less than 24 hours later.
The Giants deserve credit for acting swiftly here. They didn’t hide behind the guise of football decision-making, either. Coach Pat Shurmur flatly acknowledged that the “determining factor” in Jenkins’ release was his refusal “to acknowledge the inappropriate and offensive language.”
Video of Jenkins’ interaction with reporters, though, makes it clear New York was left with no other option.
The 31-year-old’s dismissive tone perfectly aligned with his ridiculous justification of using the slur in the first place. Defending his language by chalking it up to how he talks with friends from his hometown of Pahokee, FL, Jenkins gave a textbook non-apology.
No one should be offended by his inappropriate remark, he insisted , because Jenkins knows it didn’t come from a place of malice or hate. Anyone’s unfavorable reaction to his words, then, is their problem, not his.
“I regret it. But at the end of the day, it’s my slang. So if you take it how you’re going to take it, it’s on you,” Jenkins said, per ESPN’s Jordan Ranaan. “I don’t mean to offend nobody. My dad always told me, ‘Speak freely and own up to what you say.’ So I always speak freely as a man, and I speak how I want to speak.”
Times have changed. Abjectly discriminatory language was often considered light-hearted and good-natured, making it easy for society to look the other way. Not anymore, and rightfully so.
There are degrees to that dynamic, of course. If Jenkins had simply apologized and attempted to show faux remorse during his subsequent media gaggle, he would probably still have a job. But he couldn’t even bring himself to feign interest in learning from his mistake, and Jenkins is currently out of the NFL as a result.
It’s naive to completely overlook the football aspect of the Giants’ decision, though. New York is a young, impressionable team, trying to build the culture and chemistry needed to win at the highest level.
Jenkins, 31, didn’t fit with the Giants’ timeline toward contention, and his play has declined since making the Pro Bowl in 2016. It’s not like he’s been a positive influence in the locker room before this incident, either. Jenkins publicly expressed displeasure with his role earlier this season, and he was suspended in 2017 for failing to report back from New York’s bye week on time.
But the Giants were able to tolerate Jenkins’ previous transgressions. This one was different, and not just because he used a slur. While leaving the locker room after his disastrous meeting with reporters, Jenkins reportedly tapped sophomore cornerback Grant Haley on the leg to personally offer the same message he had in public moments earlier.
“Speak freely as a man,” he told Haley, per NJ.com.
Jenkins spoke freely, and New York made its decision. Here’s hoping another NFL team doesn’t reward him with the same platform.