Fired Up Fridays: Mental Health in Sports

A popular saying in the workplace is “leave your personal life at the door when you clock in.” So why is it acceptable for NBA owners to ask to see players’ private mental health records?

 

In February 2018, then Toronto Raptors all-star guard DeMar DeRozan sat down with The Toronto Star to discuss his ongoing battle with depression and anxiety.

Just over a week after the DeRozan story was published, Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love took to The Players’ Tribune to make a simple statement that we all know is true; but few have the courage to speak on in a public forum, “Everyone Is Going Through Something.”

 

DeRozan initially brought awareness to the conversation with a tweet the morning of the 2018 NBA All-Star game; a game both DeRozan and Love were selected to play in (Love missed the game due to injury).

Neither player is known for being exactly outgoing towards the media although both are star players on their respective teams. Despite this fact, DeRozan and Love came out as men and admitted to having mental health issues not only for themselves; but to also encourage others that it’s okay to talk to someone.

But I didn’t share — not to my family, not to my best friends, not in public. Today, I’ve realized I need to change that. I want to share some of my thoughts about my panic attack and what’s happened since. If you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it. Partly, I want to do it for me, but mostly, I want to do it because people don’t talk about mental health enough. And men and boys are probably the farthest behind.

-Kevin Love in The Players’ Tribune

 

Love emphasized it in his article and I’m here to confirm it in case there were any doubts; growing up as a male, you are taught to not express your emotions and feelings. It’s frowned upon as you are to move along and for lack of a better word “keep it pushing”

DeRozan not only dealt with the male stigma, he was faced with considering how he would be looked at by the black community. Black families and household are taught from a young age to not seek a therapist or professional mental help. If we have a problem or something to talk about, that’s what family is for. But what if family is the key component in your struggles, who are you to express your thoughts to then? That’s a question that is thought of a disrespectful because “family sticks together no matter what.”

 

Kelly Oubre Jr. of the Washington Wizards in turn came out saying he could relate to both DeRozan and Love; stating that he’s really good at keeping a poker face because his dad used to always tell him to never let anyone see him weak.

Love’s teammate, Channing Frye spoke out in 2017 about his battle with depression after losing both parents within months of each other in 2016.

 

Having the courage to seek professional help is a huge step in itself. To speak on your issues in a public space places you in a whole new stratosphere. With that said, what is the purpose of NBA owners wanting to have access to players’ private records? In the era of social media where nothing around the league is private anymore, putting sacred information in a position to reach eyes around the world is a huge risk and if handled irresponsibly will do nothing but backtrack on the progress made earlier this year.

 

If NBA owners intend to use access to players’ mental health records to properly provide the needed resources to support their players, I am all aboard them being granted with the necessary information. However, if this is another ploy by owners to save a dime in paying players with mental health history less money due to their condition; they should consider a therapist of their own because they are truly dealing with a mental illness.

Sterling Blount

Sterling Blount

Sterling Blount has been writing passionately about sports since 2011. Sterling has had a strong passion for sports since the age of four; watching anything from football and basketball to golf, lacrosse, and hockey. He first discovered his passion for writing during his freshman year of college. He has lived in the DMV for 26 years and currently covers the Washington Capitals and NCAA Men's Basketball.