Bradford Philen is angry about racism and white privilege; but he doesn’t want to rant. He wants to listen and be smart and recover. He urges athletes like Derrick Rose to keep pushing the dialogue.
Dear Derrick Rose,
Or is it DRose? I was gonna hit you up on Twitter, but you got, like, 2.15 million Followers, 8 Favorites, and only 46 total Tweets. To top it off, the last time you actually tweeted was September 12. Those are Kanye-esque-celebrity-status Twitter stats. The last letter I wrote to a pro athlete was in 1986. I was 7 then, and Spud Webb was my childhood holy savior. If Spud, at 5’7”, could make it to the NBA and win the Slam Dunk Contest, a short, skinny white kid like me surely had a chance.
To be honest, I’m a Lakers fan, but this letter is more than hoops. I’m 35 now and didn’t make the NBA. I’m about to have my second knee surgery, and, despite my Purple-Yellow bloodline, you’re my favorite NBA star. I don’t follow your bball stats like I do Kobe’s (he most recently sizzled in 32 in a win against the Kings), but I think you got that Bad-Boy era mojo. Tell it like it is.
In a recent interview (November 2014) after a team practice, you said,
“I know a lot of people get mad when they see me sit out or whatever, but … when I sit out, it’s not because of this year. I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about, after I’m done with basketball, having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to. I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past, so it’s just learning and being smart.”
As I’m about to go under the knife once again, I’ve actually thought a lot about your words. I’m no pro-athlete. I’m far from it – I teach high school English. But, you seem wise in your youth. Like you know what it takes to recover from an injury, and you’re not about to put yourself in a place to have to go there again. My sentiments exactly. Surgery is like taking a long-awaited trip, but when you get back, you ain’t really gone nowhere. No stories to tell because you weren’t awake to see it or feel it. Your plight in consciousness is to listen to the surrounding pity-party that you don’t want to be a part of, but it’s your party and you can’t play hooky. I don’t want to go back under the knife again.
Sacrifice and smart recovery.
DRose, I’m gonna level with you here. The Lakers aren’t making the playoffs this year. While I’m not going to rock a No. 1 Bulls jersey, I wish you the best of luck. Beat Lebron and those damn Cavs! At least you got Pau Gasol on your team, and he’s got that winning Lakers’ blood.
What I really wanted to write to you about is Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. There are many others.
Young, black boys. Slain.
A child of God died.
More finished than simple past tense.
And it doesn’t make sense.
On Saturday December 6, in your pre-game warm-up, you wore a t-shirt, instead of your Chicago Bulls garb, which read “I Can’t Breathe.” You were the first player to react to the December 3 Staten Island Grand Jury decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner. You didn’t have a pre-game conference announcing the t-shirt. You just rocked it and then played one of your 82 NBA games (you did lose to the Warriors, but understandably so).
After the game, you said:
“I had the shirt made, my best friend Randall brought it to the game, and I decided to wear it. It wasn’t any one’s idea, I just thought I wanted to support something that happened. That’s what made me wear the shirt.”
“I grew up and I saw it every day. Not killing or anything like that, but I saw the violence every day. Just seeing what can happen. If anything, I’m just trying to change the kids’ minds across the nation and it starts here.”
“I’m a parent now. I had a kid two years ago. It probably would have been different before. I probably wouldn’t have worn the shirt. But now that I’m a dad, it’s just changed my outlook on life, period. I don’t want my son growing up being scared of the police or having the thought that something like that could happen. I have a cousin, that easily could have been him, or that easily could have been one of our relatives. It’s sad that people lost their lives over that.”
I was struck by your words and I think your peers were, too. Lebron followed suit, and then it became the NBA norm to rock the t-shirt motto, almost like a logo.
Derrick, I hope you do more. I hope you find another t-shirt to wear, or shoe to don that will address the fractures that ail. Keep the dialogue going.
White America has no idea. What it all means.
I have no idea. I can see it, but I don’t feel it. My wife’s black, so she does. There’s white privilege and black power and I think I’m somewhere in between . . . . I’m angry, Derrick, but I don’t want to rant.
I want to listen and be smart and recover.
We’re all affected by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. We have to be affected. What’s important is how we choose to empathize, to think, and to act.
America is broken.
Despite the pain that surgery will surely bring, recovery is about the sacrifice…
#12 Athens Drive Jaguars, class of 1998, State Sectional Champs, PG/SG
Photo Credit: Twitter
This post originally appeared on bradfordphilen.com