Last week, I watched in awe as Derrick Rose dropped a career-high 50 points against the defensively-minded Utah Jazz. His quick changes of direction, and gymnastic body contortion reminded me, along with basketball fans everywhere, of the old DRose. The youngest MVP in NBA history back in 2011, Rose faced tremendous adversity in the subsequent years, undergoing three significant knee surgeries that saw his status in the league plummet from the face of the Bulls’ franchise to an oft-injured journeyman now playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Rose, overcome with emotion, cried following this performance, as Timberwolves players and fans stayed after to show their support. As I scrolled through Twitter, I saw tweets from current and former players, media outlets, and fans unified in their support of the forgotten superstar. The heartwarming feeling was ubiquitous and palpable, even through my timeline.
However, one tweet stood out from the rest. The tweet, by @sreekyshooter, brought to light the recent rape allegation against Rose. My heart, racing with positivity and sheer joy, skipped a beat. How could I have forgotten about this? With the #MeToo movement still prominently on display — as evident by the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing — how could this not be at the forefront of my mind?
The truth is, I hadn’t forgotten about it, I just wanted to believe the situation wasn’t how it seemed. “Well, he wasn’t convicted, so this shouldn’t follow him for the rest of his life, ” I told myself. “Let’s enjoy a comeback story and forget about the rest of this,” my conscious pleaded to me. Upon reading more about the case, however, it became clear that my mind was performing gymnastics similarly to the way Rose’s body does when he’s going up for a layup.
During the civil trial, Rose admitted he didn’t know what consent was, and the jurors posed with him for a picture following the decision. The plaintiff is currently appealing the original verdict, which originally ruled him “not-liable,” a different decision than “not-guilty.” “Not guilty” explicitly dictates that the defendant is innocent, while “not-liable” just asserts that the evidence is too inconclusive to directly assign blame.
People will point out that this case being filed in civil court, which seeks monetary compensation instead of a conviction, damages the plaintiff's credibility and intentions. This is where the case, particularly in the #MeToo context, becomes complicated. Rose faces the unique situation of facing both privilege and victimhood. Black men are more likely to be convicted and more harshly sentenced for false sexual assault allegations, while recognizable athletes enjoy a sense of judicial immunity. How does this situation fit into the current social movement? I want to believe women, but I also don’t want black men to be faced with the same type of extrajudicial convictions that are all too common in our nation’s history.
In this situation, Rose’s admitted lack of understanding of consent, and the problematic nature of juror bias shape my view that he is not a saint that the basketball community should prop up on the pedestal of relentless dedication. As for how the NBA should treat Rose, that’s another conversation entirely. I do not know how an organization should punish or respond to an employee credibly accused of sexaul assault when they were found “not-liable.” Especially when this employee is a black man.
The fact that the NBA community was so willing and eager to cheer on Rose after his performances demonstrates that the #MeToo movement is still far from finished. What good does this movement do if we only chastise those who we didn’t support in the first place, while continuing to support those who we look up to? I want to feel good about Rose’s redemption game, but I don’t know if I can do it in good faith. The fact that I have had to grapple with my reaction to this situation shows that, in addition to the movement as a whole, I also am far from perfect with how I respond to instances of misogyny and sexual misconduct.
Based on the nearly universal positive response to Rose’s performance last week, I am confident that the sports community, along with many others, fall into this same camp. Just because the #MeToo movement is out of the constant news cycle does not mean we are exempt from continually evaluating of our perspectives. And as long as these issues plague our society, we cannot grow complacent with our imperfect feelings towards them.