Lamar Jackson says the “I need $” image on his social-media pages isn’t a message to Ravens

Pro athletes often have no self-awareness. Or they maybe they’re just pretending to be oblivious.

Case in point: Lamar Jackson is perplexed by the fact that his decision to plaster the message “I need $” on his Twitter page and Instagram page has been interpreted by some as a message to the football team that has been trying to give him money for more than a year.

“I don’t know why people are blowing it up,” Jackson told Safid Deen of USA Today during Jackson’s fourth annual Funday with LJ event. “I just saw Bleacher Report post it. They just take anything that’s posted on social media and just blow it up, and try to think for you. I don’t take it too seriously. . . . They’re making it seem like I’m talking to the Ravens when I’m not. Our contract discussion is going on already. But it ain’t about that though. I’m not putting my business life on social media. I won’t ever do that. I won’t put my personal life on social media. I’ll show stuff, but I won’t throw subliminal [messages] out. That’s not me.”

Jackson claims he saw the image in a movie, he thought it was funny, so he added it to his social-media pages. That’s fine, but he needs to realize that people are paying attention, and that people will reasonably react to his gestures. It’s hardly unreasonable for people to respond to Jackson’s “I need $” by wondering whether he’s letting the one entity currently in position to give him a bunch of money that he, well, needs it.

Pro athletes and celebrities crave attention. But most of them want it on their own terms. They want everyone to look at them, and then they want to be able to say, “What’s everybody looking at?”

That’s the best explanation for Jackson’s reaction to people reacting to things he says and does, whether it’s posting “I need $” or skipping offseason workouts with his teammates at a time when he’s supposedly determined to have the best season of his career. It’s impossible for someone of his profile to do something like that and spark no reaction. There’s simply no way he can be surprised by any of it.