Mental Health/Black Athletes in the NBA

Today I came across this article on ESPN about mental health in Black Athletes in the NBA. The author was ESPN’s senior writer Jackie MacMullan is a 57-year-old freelance sportswriter. You may recognize her name from Around the Horn or Len Bias. Jackie MacMullan is also white. When I type her name into Google Docs, her name doesn’t even come up as a misspelled word, unlike Markieff Morris’ name, who is a main character in her reporting. She wrote, “Like many boys their age, the Morris twins dreamed of playing in the NBA or the NFL.” Referring to Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, she wrote that the brothers were so close that they finished each other’s sentences. This same closeness kept them safe throughout their childhood. Since they were always together, it was hard for someone to jump them or attack them.

Both boys also told ESPN that they were living with depression. Marcus told MacCullan that his and Markieff’s depression came from two strikes that they were born into: poor and black. They were stressed out all the time. The article goes onto include testimony from DeMar DeRozan (from Compton, CA), Charles Barkley, Bruce Bowen. These men said that confronting the past and determining how it should fit into their lives going forward is “one of the most difficult yet effective parts of their mental health treatment.”

A quote from Jackie MacMullan’s article:

“People don’t understand what these guys in the African-American community go through,” longtime agent Aaron Goodwin says. “It’s so hard for them to separate themselves from the people they grew up with. It leads to withdrawal, anxiety. There’s guilt about turning their backs on people they care about but who aren’t good influences in their lives. There’s this pressure of, ‘I have to succeed because so many people are counting on me.’ And then there’s all the people with their hands out because everyone wants money.”

The article includes data stating that last season, the NBA was 74.2% African-American and 80.7% people of color.

Let me tell you, I held my breath when I double-checked to see if Aaron Goodwin was white or not. I appreciate this article by Jackie MacMullan, but I want to reread an article about this SUPER important topic from someone who understands the experience. Here’s me calling all NBA players to share their experiences and publish work. We want to hear your voices.

Image via ESPN.

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