Why is Thrasher Magazine Trying to Rehabilitate Jason Jessee's Reputation?

Thrasher Magazine is to skateboarding what Vogue is to fashion: a tremendously powerful legacy publication run by a legendary editor who is capable of single handedly bestowing legitimacy upon an up-and-coming new talent. Appearing in the magazine is an important boost to any skater’s reputation and being featured on the cover of “the Bible” is considered an honor and a major career highlight.

Last May, 48 year old Santa Cruz pro Jason Jessee got his first Thrasher cover, an early evening fastplant to fakie on a vert ramp. At the time Jessee was a successful pro skateboarder and custom motorcycle builder who was enjoying a late-career renaissance as a brand ambassador and influencer, having just released a major video part for Converse.

Within days of the release of that video part, a now-deleted thread on the popular SlapMag.com skate forum revealed that he has a long and well-documented history of using racial slurs in interviews, displaying swastikas and other racist imagery on his body and in his artwork, and palling around with neo-nazi band the Highway Murderers. These revelations, which were summarized in a damning YouTube video and written up in Vice, made Jessee toxic to sponsors: he lost all of his endorsement deals within weeks.

Thrasher is notoriously petty about banning skaters from its pages based on the personal whims of its longtime editor, Jake Phelps, who recently died. Benji Galloway, a transition pro, is apparently banned for wearing knee pads at a contest. Frank Hirata is banned for expressing displeasure with the editing of his interview. Danny Gonzalez is banned for demanding payment for use of his likeness on the cover of the Thrasher video game. The list goes on.

Jason Jessee has appeared on the Thrasher website five times in the year following the Nazi revelations, including a recent video segment that concludes with other skaters literally bowing down to him. He has a positive mention in the latest issue of the print magazine as well.

Jason Jessee is not an especially talented or influential skateboarder in 2019. On the board, he is a replacement-level vert Barney who hasn’t done a new trick in 20 years. Fully half of his video parts are “lifestyle” footage of him riding bikes, driving around, and generally being a dirtbag. His appeal to skaters is based on his personality, image, and lifestyle, which has lost much of its appeal following the exposure of his white supremacist ties. (His recent arrest for possession of a stolen vehicle and an illegally modified assault rifle haven’t helped anything.)

Why does he keep appearing in Thrasher? Why do kneepads at a contest get you banned while repeated use of Nazi symbols doesn’t? What the hell is going on over there?