Tag Archives: Royce White

A Letter To Royce White

Everytime We Say Goodbye from Professor Bop via Flickr

Everytime We Say Goodbye from Professor Bop via Flickr

Dear Royce White,

I’m done. I’m sorry, I tried, but I can’t do this anymore.

I wanted so badly to support you, to back you in your fight to raise awareness about mental illnesses and break the stigmas surrounding them. But it’s hard to believe that’s what you’re fighting for anymore.

At first, I thought you were fighting the good fight. You used your celebrity to speak out against the misconceptions surrounding anxiety. Was it uncomfortable at times? Yes, but the tough yet essential topics are always uncomfortable at first. Continued discussion is what makes them less so.

Teams were scared of you. You were outspoken about your anxiety in a realm in which most who suffer from mental illness keep quiet. And yet, your openness was what gave me, and countless others who suffer from mental illness, hope. When you were drafted, it seemed like a victory for all of us, those with a mental illness, and those who just wanted to see a player of your unique talents take the floor.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get off to a great start. Issues about travel and support systems arose instantly, and prevented you from being at training camp. Then it prevented you from playing in all of the Summer League games. But you did get on the court, and that should have been the start toa promising rookie campaign and a chance to show everyone that anxiety doesn’t have to control our lives.

Should have been. It wasn’t.

Instead, more issues surfaced, and you began a war of words, a war you couldn’t possibly win, with the ONE organization that was willing to take a chance on you. You called them unsupportive, uncaring, ignorant. You called them liars. You took to twitter, howling about this misdeeds and unsafe environment not just of the Rockets, but of the NBA itself. With every chance you got, every perceived slight, you railed against the very people who were trying to help. Only you didn’t want help. Help involves compromise, not bending over backwards to acquiesce to one’s every demand. More and more, it seems like that’s what you actually wanted. You wanted to get better, to join the team, but only on your terms.

There were those who tried to get through to you, to show you that although your heart was in the right place, the direction in which you were headed could only lead to disaster. But you didn’t, no, you wouldn’t listen.

You had the amazing opportunity to make an impact not just on the court, but off of it. You could have broken down barriers. You could have been a leader, a voice for the silent sufferers of mental illnesses, showing them that they don’t have to be ashamed.

And you blew it. Your #AnxietyTrooper and #TeamAnxiety rallying cries, once endearingly cheesy, are now outright embarrassments. Don’t you realize that with every petulant outburst or refusal, you’re further cementing the already negative misconceptions regarding mental health?

You’re not helping. You’re making it worse.

I hate writing about this. In a better world, a world for which you were supposedly a champion, I wouldn’t have to continuously write about you. I wouldn’t have to say that your actions are not representative of me, or anyone else who suffers from anxiety, or depression, or a multitude of other mental illnesses.

Once, it seemed like you were actually trying to help, addressing this taboo in a constructive manner. Now, it just appears you’re using your anxiety as a cover for…well…being an ass.

I know anxiety is a struggle. No, scratch that, I know anxiety is the asshole that holds your head underwater, lets you up just enough so you can remember what breathing feels like, then shoves your head underwater once more. But that doesn’t give you the right to be a petulant brat when you don’t get what you want.

Today, Royce, you lost most of the goodwill and trust your bravery and candor won you. It was already slowly eroding with each outburst against your employer, but when you referenced the Newtown tragedy in your statement refusing Houston’s D-League assignment, somehow equating the massacre of 28 people, 20 of whom were children, to your plight, you hammered the final nail into your own coffin. It was ignorant, and it was beyond disgraceful.

It’s a terrible thing to lose hope. But I’ve lost all hope in you, Royce.



Jordan White

Royce White’s Unclear Intentions


Image: maarg/Flickr

When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with a chronic, less-severe form of depression called “Dysthymia”. Prior to my diagnosis, I struggled with my confidence and self-esteem, and I met with a counselor for a time as a form of treatment. There are factors linked to the cause of the condition, including genetic predisposition, social isolation and poor social structure. Of these I fit the bill on the last two, as I was a bit of an outcast all throughout my school years. Being diagnosed in the early onset phase (before the age of 21), I was more likely to develop a concurrent condition, so I make up part of the 50% of those with the disorder who also deal with anxiety. For years I ignored my depression, but in recent months I’ve stopped hiding from it, and dealt with it head on.

Perhaps I hid from it as a teenager and into my early twenties because I felt that the people around me wouldn’t understand, or that acknowledging it would mean that something was wrong with me. Before, I’d ignore my lows, and hope that I could just snap out of it, or that I would feel better, but now I know that’s not how these things work. Now, I acknowledge my lows, and try to negotiate my way through those negative thoughts.

For instance, I finally left my high school job for what I thought would be my career as a personal trainer this past August. Once I applied for the job, I was quickly contacted by the company, rushed through the interview process and hired. Getting the job was everything that I had worked through school for, and I should have been ecstatic. But I wasn’t. Instead, all that I could think of was things like “I’m not sure that I’m good enough,” “Can I make a difference?” and “I don’t know if I can do this.” As it turned out, my concerns were for nothing. In just a month, my clients saw results, and I connected with them by doing things their previous trainers wouldn’t do for them. I came in early and stayed late to make sure that they were successful.

But you know what? There were many days when it took everything I had to put on a happy face – to try my best to be upbeat when all that I felt like doing was shrinking from the moment, bowing away from the pressure. There was pressure to make sure that my clients’ time and money were being well-spent. There was pressure to make sure that I was meeting the goals of the company. And there was pressure to make sure that I was setting a good example for each side.

There was one night in September, a couple weeks into my supposed dream job, that I recall having a good day at work, but coming completely apart once I got home. I was as low and as anxious as I had ever been, and I didn’t know what to do. I would write out text messages to friends so that I could have somebody to talk to, but I would just end up deleting them before sending them, thinking I would only be a burden to them in doing so. So I suffered in silence. I decided that I would eventually need a different career path for my own sake. The pressure became too much.

Naturally, when I heard the Houston Rockets’ Royce White was fighting for better treatment and discussing his anxiety disorder so openly on Twitter, I thought that it was great that he was using his platform to raise awareness. Okay, so he came off as throwing the Rockets under the bus, but it didn’t seem like he meant to, in my eyes, at the time. To me, it seemed  he was simply doing whatever it took to make sure that his health was being looked after. Admittedly, I was probably a little biased in my point of view. It was difficult to read some of the ignorant and rude comments people were making to White and those supporting him, but I clicked “follow” on @Highway_30’s page anyway..

Then I saw this retweet from one of his followers, and it resonated with me on a whole other level – one that made me change my entire opinion on Royce’s actions:

I took offense to this comment because I know that I can not only get to work, but that I can perform my job responsibilities despite managing both depression and anxiety. I also know that I can manage to meet my obligations to three different websites on a weekly basis. Finally, I know that I can make and maintain personal relationships and friendships despite my diagnosis. Simply put: my depression does not define me.

By letting it define him – at least in the public eye, and mostly via his Twitter rants – it seems Royce White is hurting the perception of those with depression and anxiety by making people think that people with those disorders are less-capable because of them, and that’s not helping the cause, which was Royce’s goal in being so open about his condition in the first place.

On the 16th of this November, Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote of White:

White has left the Rockets, and there’s no telling when he’ll return. Before long, White will lose the platform that he so desperately wants to advocate for mental illness. He’s fighting a noble fight, with the most noble of intentions, and perhaps someday he can be remembered as a trailblazer on the issue of anxiety disorders.

If Houston gives up on him, White will struggle to find another team willing to make even close to the commitment – if any at all. White has turned down NBA D-League assignments, missed practices and conditioning workouts and tried to convince Rockets officials that his anxiety order would be much, much better if they would simply play him in games. This isn’t a negotiation, and never will be.

Houston redid White’s contract so it could pay for White’s RVs and car services on trips, because of his fear of flying. The Rockets have let him come and go this season without fining him. They owe him that patience and understanding, but they don’t owe him playing time. It’s earned in the NBA, the way three Houston rookies are trying to earn it.

Royce White’s battle with Rockets over anxiety disorder could cost him NBA career”- Adrian Wojnarowski (11/16/12)

Some people got a little indignant at Wojnarowski for this post, but he does raise some excellent points while also acknowledging that he isn’t belittling White’s struggle. Wojnarowski goes on to cite other NBAers that have made successful careers for themselves while also being positive mental health advocates. They all have something in common: they play, and they advocate on the side. But if White is really intent on exploiting his condition as leverage for playing time, while simultaneously playing the martyr, he is only further damaging the image of those with depression and anxiety.

I, like many others who struggle with anxiety disorder, want to see Royce be successful on the court and raise awareness off it, because he has such a great chance to make a positive impact. Royce’s Twitter account is a platform, and it’s a mighty one at that. To be a successful advocate, he needs a platform. To be able to raise the most possible awareness for mental illness, he needs to stay in the NBA, and he needs to make the greatest possible impact he can on the court. If he does that, his platform will be there, and he’ll be able to make the positive impact he so badly desires off the court.

Unfortunately, that off-court impact hasn’t been very positive to date. Has Royce White helped anyone with his actions so far? With the way he went off on Wojnarowksi in the wake of the article, and how he has approached the situation with the Rockets, and the way he has subsequently interacted with his followers, he isn’t doing anything to change the perception of mental illness or removed any of the stigma surrounding it. It would be hard to argue that Royce has positively impacted his own career or image with this stand either. After all, people are still saying, “Suck it up!” and ignorant things like the tweet I posted above.

If Royce isn’t helping others or himself by doing this, then what’s the point? Sure, he pretty clearly does want to help others in addition to having a successful basketball career, but he’s not on the fast track to do much of either if he’s going about it this way.

If this is really about his anxiety, that’s fine. But maybe – and I say this with all due respect – basketball really isn’t the career path for Royce White, much like being a personal trainer wasn’t the path for me. If this is about playing time, Royce should just come out and say it – but he shouldn’t use anxiety as leverage while making his employer out to be the bad guy. All that does is worsen the public perception of those with depression and other anxiety disorders. If his current problem with his situation is perceived as being all about leverage, which is increasingly becoming the case, it’s likely that his platform to help others will disappear and so will some of his respectability.

I supported Royce at first because I felt that I could relate to him on some level – that I could understand what he was going through. As the days have gone by, I’ve realized that he isn’t speaking for me. He’s speaking for himself. Royce should be as open as he wants about his mental illness, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. And despite his well-voiced opinion, it seems as if he’s hurting the cause he claims to be fighting for, not helping. If there was ever a time where the old adage, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” this may be that time.

Royce White’s Dangerous Game

Photo via Codfisch on Flickr.

Watching Royce White’s tweets unfold in real time last night was a lot of things: it was awkward, it was sort of uncomfortable, it was a little surreal. More than anything, it was frustrating. White’s openness about his anxiety disorder has made him into something of a folk hero, and until now, there was never an opening for reasonable people to turn on him. I cringed a little more as each 140-character missive appeared in my timeline. Not because I thought what he was saying was necessarily wrong or ill intentioned, but because it was obvious from the start that there was no way this could end well for him.

It’s next to impossible to talk reasonably about the latest turn White’s thus-far-rocky NBA career has taken, because so much about it is unknown to us. He has yet to see a minute of action in a Houston Rockets uniform, which until now was mostly a minor annoyance to those of us who had fallen in love with his game at Summer League and his story through the various profiles that have been written about him. White’s famous aversion to flying had seemingly been dealt with through a series of alternate travel arrangements made during training camp, and it was only a matter of playing the waiting game before he saw the floor. But on Monday, the Rockets assigned White to the D-League, and followed this up on Tuesday with a vague, abrupt statement saying he was “not available right now.”

White released a statement of his own, accusing the Rockets (without giving specifics) of not honoring their previous agreement on how to mitigate his condition. He then took to Twitter to attempt to explain his side of the story, using a lot of characters to say very little. Nobody outside of White and the Rockets organization has any clue what’s going on behind the scenes. Which is fine—preferable, actually. Dealing with this stuff away from the prying eyes and ears of the media and the public would do more to create an environment where White could be successful than throwing it to the wolves and letting those of us who have no idea of the specifics of the situation pass judgment on him. That’s why his decision to air his grievances with the team on Twitter was baffling. Whether fairly or not, all that accomplishes is opening the door for other people who have never met the man to decide what he should or shouldn’t be allowed to do in pursuit of treatment and a better mental state.

White’s selection by the Rockets and the post-Summer League buzz about his on-the-court gifts have brought hundreds of basketball fans and bloggers out of the woodwork to address their own mental-health issues in public. His desire to use his celebrity to raise awareness about mental illness has done wonders in terms of moving the conversation forward, and brought about a collective realization that a large majority of us are also sufferers. Royce White having a successful NBA career while tackling his demons head-on would not only be a great sports story, but it would represent a major victory for everyone who deals with depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder (myself included). All any of us want out of this is for him to be healthy and happy and playing basketball. Anything that puts him in a position to do those things is something we’ll support. And it’s difficult to see where this week’s events play into that.

Anyone who’s followed White on Twitter for any length of time has seen the vitriol he’s subjected to on a daily basis, by way of some of the replies he chooses to retweet. People tell him to stop whining and be happy that he’s making millions of dollars. People attempt to minimize what he’s dealing with (the specifics of which nobody truly knows except for him), because they’re mad that their favorite team risked a mid-first-round pick on a player with off-court baggage. None of this is right, but it’s an unavoidable reality in the social-media era, and unleashing a barrage of tweets in the wake of an already murky, bizarre situation is only going to open him up to more of this abuse and accusation. It’s going to thrust his plight right back into the media spotlight, which will only add to the weight of pressure and expectations that will be placed on him when he does eventually play for the Rockets. And that will only make people judge him more harshly if he’s slow to contribute, which in turn will exacerbate his self-doubt and anxiety. No one can win.

Some of this comes with the territory. White made a conscious decision to declare for the NBA draft, knowing full well the consequences of becoming a public figure subject to widespread media attention. He knew that the daily grind of an NBA season would conflict with his fear of flying, and fortunately landed with an organization that’s willing, to some degree, to work with him to make the situation palatable. Most importantly, his decision to open up about his struggles with anxiety was always going to make him a polarizing figure. That gamble is a worthwhile one, one which furthers a conversation that needs to be had. His focus right now should be on minimizing the amount of hardship and discomfort he has to deal with as he navigates this uncertain terrain. And I’m not sure going public with this beef does much to accomplish that.

Rooting for Royce White

Inspiration by h.koppdelaney via Flickr

Often, the players we cheer for the most, not necessarily our favorite players, are the ones to whom we feel a certain connection. Maybe they went to our school, or grew up in our neighborhood, or they said “hi” to us once in a restaurant. A sense of pride swells within us when we see that player score or block a shot, as if the connection we feel allows us to live vicariously through them. They may not even be particularly good players, but because of that connection, however small, we find ourselves cheering for that player’s success.

I was a latecomer to NBA fandom. I didn’t have a favorite player; neither Kobe Bryant nor Shaquille O’Neal posters adorned my bedroom walls. There was, however, one player whom I rooted for endlessly as soon as he entered the league: Kareem Rush.

Rush went to my high school (though I was in grade school at that time), dated a good family friend for a while, and drove me to Sunday school once or twice. He and his brother JaRon were nothing short of dominant on the court together, and though their state championships were stripped and their very existence wiped from the pages of Pembroke Hill history as a result of a booster scandal, every one still remembers the Rush brothers. He once scared the crap out of me at a Movie Gallery, as, after hearing his girlfriend call my name, I turned around only to find his 6’6 frame towering over my eight-year old self. I played him in a game of two-on-one, first to eleven, with a ten point cushion. I lost. These stories aren’t meant to boast. In fact, I’m sure Kareem doesn’t even remember me. Still, that connection was enough for me to check the box score after every one of his games, from his rookie year with the Lakers to his briefer stints with the Pacers and 76ers.

I’ve never met Royce White. He didn’t grow up in Kansas City, I didn’t go to Iowa State. And yet, with the start of NBA training camps less than a week away, marking the unofficial start of basketball season, there is no player who I will cheer for more than White.

The connection I feel with White may not be one born from an acquaintanceship, but that doesn’t make it any less real. White and I, along with countless others, suffer from anxiety disorder. There’s a certain, instant kinship formed between those who suffer from depression, anxiety, or another mental illness. Though many have tried to describe what an anxiety/panic attack feels like, it unfortunately can only be understood from first-hand experience. Those that have struggled through the crippling attacks are thus able to empathize with fellow sufferers on a completely different level than those who haven’t. Of course, that lack of understanding can easily lead to misconceptions, or even fear. That fear reared its head on draft night as White, despite his candor about his condition, saw his stock slide, due mainly to concerns about his ability to handle the rigors of the NBA life. According to the fantastic Grantland “Hockumentary,” which detailed White’s draft night, had Houston not selected White when they did, he could have potentially slid out of the first round. Luckily, Kevin McHale, White’s lone advocate in the Houston war room, won out and selected White with the 16th pick.

That could have been the last we heard of White’s anxiety. Though he’d come to be an inspiration, even a folk hero of sorts, to those who battle with anxiety, he had no obligation to continue wearing that mantle. His future now stable, no longer having to worry about pre-draft interviews or intense scrutiny, he could have closed off that part of his life from the public eye. Instead, White has become as much of an advocate as he is an inspiration. A perusal through his twitter mentions reveals hundreds of messages thanking him for being a model of what one can accomplish in spite of their mental illness, naming him as the onus for their taking charge of life and renewed dedication to fighting anxiety. It may seem ironic to most that someone whose affliction has been so well documented would assume the role of an advocate, and on such a large scale. And yet, when you consider how candid White has been about his issues, it really shouldn’t surprise us at all.

Now comes the hard part for Royce White: succeeding. Not hard because he doesn’t have the skill, as he certainly isn’t lacking in that area, but rather because every mistake  he makes will be met with an extra dose of skepticism. Did his anxiety cause him to turn the ball over? Is he missing foul shots because he’s having an anxiety attack? For any other rookie, those mistakes would be chalked up to nothing more than growing pains, not so for White. But this isn’t foreign territory for the bruising and versatile forward. These are the same questions he faced at Iowa State, and the same ones posed to him countless times during the draft process. His play silenced those questions in college, and there’s no reason to expect anything different now that he’s in the NBA.

Connections formed from mutual suffering are often the strongest.  I may never meet Royce White, but I know the battles he’s fought and the victories he’s won all too well. Is it any wonder that I cheer for him?