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Don’t hate the Eagles’ DeVonta Smith for loving Henry Ruggs | Marcus Hayes

The Eagles rookie faced some unfair blowback after he adroitly acknowledged that he’d checked to see if his “brother from another mother” was OK after he was involved in a deadly car crash.

Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith warming up before a game against Detroit last month.
Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith warming up before a game against Detroit last month.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

The scene was touching: A well-presented young man a week shy of his 23rd birthday addressed a terrible situation to which he is connected only tangentially with humanity and empathy and love.

In this era of knee-jerk hot takes on mediums both social and traditional, don’t make it anything else than that.

DeVonta Smith, smartly hatted and scarved after the second-best game of his brief NFL career, repeatedly was asked after the Eagles’ loss Sunday night how he’d handled the news of his former Alabama teammate and dear friend Henry Ruggs III, a Raiders receiver who was involved in a deadly car crash early Tuesday morning in Las Vegas.

Smith was upset all week that Ruggs was in this situation, and admitted that. For his candor, Smith has been, in some circles, vilified; cast as being more concerned with Ruggs than with the deceased woman and her family. This is, simply, wrong.

“My heart breaks for everybody involved, the family of the young lady that lost her life,” Smith began.

This was not the question, and he knew it, but he needed to preface his response by acknowledging the anguish felt by the ones Tina Tintor left behind. His acknowledgement was sincere. He is a sincere young man.

Only after he acknowledged the despair the victim’s family must feel did he address his own struggles and those of Ruggs. Which is fine.

It’s OK to feel badly for people who have done wrong. That’s all that happened here. Those feelings don’t excuse the wrongdoing, but shunning people whose foolish actions hurt others begins a spiral of pain for everyone. Unconditional love is the only sort of love worth feeling, and that’s the sort of love Smith feels for Ruggs. The love of a brother — a man with whom you grew and competed in college. A brother from another mother, as Smith said before the Eagles played the Raiders last month.

How would you feel if it was your brother? Would you ignore his calls? Would you cut him off?

Maybe you would. Smith did not.

He wanted this to not have happened, and he felt fear and pain and worry for his friend.

“The beginning of the week, it was tough,” said Smith, who is a rookie. Veterans help rookies. “Eventually, the guys helped me get through it.”

How did Ruggs’ situation affect Smith’s preparation?

“It gave me a bigger purpose,” he said. He was “Playing for my brother, even though he can’t play.”

OK. About that.

It’s understandable if, without context and delivery, those particular words seem ... self-centered. Unfeeling.

But don’t ignore the context or the delivery. First, Smith offered heartbroken condolences. Second, he was asked these questions; he didn’t issue a statement. Third, he replied honestly and quietly and authentically. He was hurting, he knew Ruggs was hurting, and he loves Henry Ruggs.

Even if you don’t.

Nobody says you should.

Ruggs faces 20 years in prison for allegedly killing a 23-year-old woman just before 4 a.m. last Tuesday. She burned alive, a witness indicated to police. Ruggs had twice the Nevada legal limit of alcohol in his system while behind the wheel of his Corvette, which, according to police, was traveling 156 mph just before he rammed into the back of Tintor’s small Toyota SUV and ignited the fuel tank. She was trapped inside the vehicle. Bystanders heard her screaming, but they could not rescue her from her flaming tomb. Her dog died, too.

Kiara Je’nai Kilgo-Washington, Ruggs’ 22-year-old girlfriend, suffered an arm injury. Ruggs apparently has a neck injury and facial cuts. Police say they found a loaded gun on the floor. Ruggs’ blood alcohol test came back at .161%.

The Raiders cut Ruggs on Tuesday.

To you, Henry Ruggs might fit a stereotype you despise. To you, Henry Ruggs might be a spoiled, faceless, entitled young millionaire who committed an unforgivable act.

That’s you.

To Smith, Henry Ruggs is a close friend who did something horrible, and something entirely preventable, but still, something forgivable. It will mark Ruggs for the rest of his life and will cost him millions of dollars and might end a promising career, and that is awful. Not as awful as a young woman losing her life, but tragedy is a complicated, multidimensional thing.

And, so, no, Smith will not abandon Ruggs. They spoke on the phone, Smith said, and he was just hoping Ruggs would not be too sad.

“I talked to him. We discussed everything,” Smith said. “He’s in good spirits. I’m just glad he’s gotten himself together. He’s not just down on himself.”

Does that upset you? Are you disappointed that Ruggs isn’t curled into a ball of misery in some corner, rocking himself back and forth and moaning? Would it make you happy if that’s how Ruggs spent the rest of his life?

If so, then DeVonta Smith’s reaction to this incident isn’t the reaction you should be worrying about.

Again, DeVonta Smith only wanted to make sure his friend — his brother — was OK. He didn’t defend Ruggs. He didn’t dismiss the victim, or her family.


Smith answered pointed, relevant questions with a patience, a sobriety, and a grace to which we all should aspire.