“Speak your heart, don't bite your tongue. Don't get it twisted, don't misuse it. What's your problem? Let's resolve it.”
Lyric from: We Need A Resolution from the album Aaliyah
Written By: Stephen "Static" Garrett and Tim "Timbaland" Mosley
Performed by: Aaliyah and Timbaland
|Photo of Royce White, Courtesy of Pat Sullivan/AP Photo|
It’s been a difficult four days off for the team.
The daughter of Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, Alexandra “Sasha” McHale, passed away on Saturday.
Team owner Leslie Alexander said in a statement that he extends his “deepest condolences” over the loss and that the “entire organization is mourning.”
The team has been without McHale since November 10 when it was announced that he was taking leave to deal with a personal family matter.
In his absence, Kelvin Sampson has been the interim head coach. There is reportedly no timetable for Kevin McHale’s return.
For very different reasons, the team is also without rookie Royce White.
The Houston Chronicle reported Saturday that there is still no timetable for his return to the Houston Rockets even as the power forward and team GM, Daryl Morey, are continuing to talk.
White is continuing to talk on Twitter as well, engaging supporters and critics alike in exactly the type of impassioned exchanges one would expect from someone so fervently committed to their cause.
Admittedly, I am not following White on Twitter so I have not had a front row seat to how things have played out for him day to day on the social network. I have only tuned in to his timeline for some of his more well-publicized rants.
This angry outburst aimed at Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports a few days ago is the latest to grab my attention.
In it, White is intent on discrediting this recent article from Wojnarowski about the details surrounding his absence from the team.
White calls the article “baseless” and “not factual”.
He goes on to say that “if hearing the truth annoys you…UNFOLLOW ME! I’m going to keep telling the truth, have to confront lies or they become truth!”
Since being drafted 16th overall by the Rockets, it seems White has spent more time confronting lies than he has playing basketball. He has been relentless in his crusade.
He has called out the Rockets for not providing a safe workplace, one where his mental illness is in consideration. He feels that he is justified in asking for consistent acknowledgement and for protocol to be put in place to address these issues.
Simply put, White feels that the Rockets are wrong and, that he is right.
I am making no grand declarations about mental illness, more specifically anxiety disorder, with this column. I do not pretend to understand the challenges or difficult circumstances that those with this disease experience in their daily lives.
White has been open, confrontationally so, about his struggles with the illness in a way that we are not used to seeing, especially from a young black man. In the black community the stigma attached to mental illness cuts deep and many families suffer in silence as mental disorders and defects go undiagnosed.
For White to dare to prove that we have been foolish in our association of mental illness with weakness using sports and athletics, where only the strong survive, as his platform is beyond noble.
But I wonder if he has gotten caught up in the debate for debate’s sake.
We’ve all been there. We are discussing an issue with a friend, colleague or loved one. We want to find a solution. But as the voices get louder and more forceful and, as the opinions get stronger; we experience a near imperceptible shift.
Mid fight we lose our way. We decide we want to win, to be right, maybe even at the expense of a favorably shared resolution.
Early in my career, a young co-worker of mine chatted with me over lunch about counseling sessions that she and her husband had begun attending to help resolve some issues in their marriage. She talked about how for the first few sessions the therapist let them bicker incessantly, not interrupting as they went on and on blaming each other for this wrong thing and that wrong thing.
Finally, at the close of the third session, the doctor asked them both a game-changing question. She asked, “Do you want to be right or do you want to save your marriage?”
Of course I have not been privy to the private conversations between White and Morey, or to those that he’s had with family and friends.
But there’s no time like the present for someone to ask him if he wants to be right or if he wants to play basketball.
The Rockets certainly want him to play basketball. And who can blame them for that. I don’t imagine that the decision to draft White came lightly for them as they were well aware that his being on the team would require some special accommodations. As immediately as they selected him they pledged to put support in place to help White thrive in the NBA.
White has found that support to be negligible and maybe he’s right but he shouldn’t let right and wrong distract him. Being right is, more often than not, overrated.
There’s no reason to think it impossible that Royce White can be an advocate for more awareness of the fair and appropriate mental health considerations in the workplace, have the Houston Rockets be his partner in that campaign and play basketball-all at the same time. He and the team can take that journey together but it is certain to be a learning process for both sides.
He has spent so much time setting the record straight, however, that it has likely been detrimental to his relationship with the Rockets.
White has, possibly unknowingly, defined the team as his enemy along with the journalists and pundits who have formed their own opinions about why he has failed to do what he is being paid to do. He is mistaking this battle for the actual war, and, his NBA career is liable to be the first and only casualty.
He said some time ago that he would be willing to walk away from his career but has since softened that stance. In all actuality, he probably doesn’t really believe it will come to that.
But chastising your current employer publicly sends a troubling message. One could be inclined to interpret White’s message as, perhaps, an implication that the Rockets have been malicious in their unwillingness to show respect for his condition. Bad Rockets. Bad, bad Rockets.
And “bad Rockets” is probably a moniker the organization is unwilling to bear.
They may find it easier to cut ties with White, conceding that he was in fact right to expect more and admit that they fell short while vowing to review the team’s policies so that this never happens again and ensure that moving forward the team will be better prepared to handle these issues.
All wrapped up in a nice little PR bow that lets them off the hook with minimal damage and ultimately sends White home and out of the NBA.
The world will know he was right and all it will have cost him was his career and a valuable platform for his cause.
He should decide now if it’s worth it and let that answer inform his actions going forward.