As a little kid, it was hard for me to comprehend that professional athletes were just normal people with athletic abilities. Growing up, I thought athletes were bigger than life and had everything figured out. Everyone loved them, they had tons of money and they were living the dream every day.
As I’m getting older and starting to understand the sports world a bit more, it’s becoming more clear to me that being a professional athlete isn’t as glamorous as I had once thought.
Last week, Stadium released a video on YouTube from 2016 of the moment star NBA player Derrick Rose got traded to the New York Knicks from his hometown team, the Chicago Bulls. It was one of the most heartbreaking and eye-opening moments in sports I’ve witnessed in a while.
Rose was a star player coming out of college and carried his organization with class before he was plagued by injuries. In 2011, he was the youngest player to ever win the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
At the beginning of the video, Rose was getting interviewed about the trade rumors involving him and the New York Knicks. He simply brushed off the question as if nothing was going to happen.
Minutes later, on a phone call with his agent, Rose was taped having a breakdown when he found out he would be traded to the Knicks.
“In the business and in my life period, there always be twists and turns like this,” Rose said in an interview after the phone call. “I don’t know how to feel right now. I’m anxious, shocked. That shit made me who I am.”
Despite being the face of the Bulls franchise and giving everything he had to the organization for eight seasons, Rose was traded.
For anyone in their mid-20s, having to suddenly pack your bags and leave can be intimidating. Professional athletes have to live in constant fear that they may be traded and have to uproot themselves and their families in an instant. They have no control over their lives.
Rose is the perfect example of this constant fear. Even a player who was loved by his city and wore the colors with honor was blindsided by the trade and helpless to stop it.
Yes, it’s part of the business, and yes, many of these players make millions of dollars in the process. But as former baseball player Curt Flood said, “A well-paid slave is, nonetheless, a slave.”
These athletes are not in control of their own lives.
That’s why it is so important that players do not take discounts when signing a new deal during free agency. Ultimately, professional sports is a business, and if your team won’t show you any loyalty (and it shouldn’t be expected to), then there should be no obligation for players to show any loyalty to the franchise and take less money. Players have to think about themselves and their families first, because there is nothing stopping their team from shipping them off somewhere else if something doesn’t work.
Moreover, outside of politics, sports and maybe journalism, there aren’t many other professions where random people just call you out for your shortcomings and express pure and utter disdain toward you despite the fact that you’ve done absolutely nothing to them.
It’s not easy dealing with constant criticism on a daily basis, and athletes have to deal with it every day. Sometimes it’s for trivial things like playing for a rival team but other times, players get ridiculed because they might have had a bad performance.
Usually, teams have a scapegoat for fans to ridicule when a performance doesn’t go their way. When fans can’t pinpoint what went wrong in their team’s performance, they’ll often settle on the usual suspect even if that player didn’t have a bad game. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality.
Imagine having to go on social media every day of your life and just see fans hating on you just because of your job or because you’re going through a slump. It takes a toll on a player’s mental health.
Watching Rose suffer a mental breakdown after he was traded really put the life of a professional athlete into perspective. These players are regular young people who are vulnerable to the outside world — not superheroes with no emotions.
Robby Aronson is a sophomore writing about sports. His column, “The Bottom Line,” ran every other Wednesday.