Updated: Dec 29, 2020
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
JuJu Smith-Schuster was heavily criticized by the media last week for the pregame TikTok dance ritual that he did on the opposing team's logo, which was put to an end this week after having a talk with Mike Tomlin. It started to become such a big story that every major media outlet was talking about it and Tomlin was being asked about it at his press conferences. Of course, this only became an issue when the Steelers started losing.
At the same time, Smith-Schuster has been giving back to the community during the holiday season. His foundation paid off $25,000 of layaways for families in need at a Burlington store in Pittsburgh and in Southern California where Smith-Schuster's from, along with giving 200 kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennslyvania $100 Walmart gift cards for Christmas.
The TikTok story was really overblown and the 27-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals really had little to do with Smith-Schuster's pregame stunt. There was so much scrutiny for something so minor.
“What JuJu was put through last week was piss-poor by the media because you can’t downplay someone that’s been doing something for so long,” Eric Ebron said on Monday in a Zoom interview with the media. “We all know it was never in harm’s way. It’s just who JuJu is and if you know JuJu, you know his personality.”
Smith-Schuster showed up on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts and was all business with a team-high nine receptions for 96 yards (10.7 average), along with a 25-yard game-winning touchdown. Smith-Schuster is an incredible talent on the football field, but he also has a fun-loving personality and likes to engage with his followers on social media.
“Don’t try to criminalize his personality just accept JuJu for who he is,” Ebron said. “I love him. I personally love him. He looks up to me and I look up to him, even though he’s younger than me. I look up to him because he takes so much from social media. His life is in social media.”
Yesterday after the game, Smith-Schuster's mom, Sammy Toa-Schuster, posted on her Instagram Stories that she received hate messages and death threats because of his pregame ritual.
“I don’t know how he does it. I got a wife and two kids. My life is not a social media life," Ebron said of all the uncalled for backlash JuJu and his family received. "For him to be able to take whatever comes with it every day. You have to commend how strong he is. We just have our teammates back.”