The Royce White Twitter Feed Continues Unabated After Suspension from Rockets

Categories: Basketball, Sports

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Photo by GoIowaState dot com via Wikipedia
On the court this season, the young Houston Rockets have been a pleasant surprise. They've gone 4-0 in their last four games and are 8-2 in the last ten. They continue to dominate the eastern conference (too bad they reside in the west) and are at or near the top of the NBA in several offensive categories including points scored and point differential. If they can figure out how to win in conference, they should be able to make a run at the playoffs despite turning over virtually their entire roster in the offseason.

But one player has not been a part of any of it, at least on the floor. Rockets rookie Royce White has not been on the floor for a single play in the regular season. He has been absent from the team for a couple months, citing a concern for his safety and an unwillingness by the team to work with his clinical anxiety disorder. Up until this past weekend, the only news on the rookie forward came from his Twitter feed, but the Rockets finally made a move, suspending White for a week on Sunday for refusing to report to their D-League team in the Rio Grande Valley.

White shot back, unsurprisingly, with a string of tweets focused on his refusal to allow the team to have executive powers when it comes to deciding his treatment and overall health. In NBA contracts, the team is given a certain amount of leverage over a player when it comes to determining health. This is, as a general rule, protection for both player and team because it takes the liability off the team if a player plays without reporting an injury and it gets worse, and it gives the team the authority to keep a player off the floor if he is truly injured. In most cases, it's the former that is the most common. A player really wants to play and tells the team he is fine, only to make things worse.

Of course, putting the team in control of the determination if a player is healthy enough to play or not could cause them to force a player to play when he truly isn't healthy, and that is White's primary concern.

It's somewhat uncharted territory for the association and certainly for the Rockets. They have had their share of head cases, but no one who is as stubborn as he is articulate. On one hand, White says he is fighting for his own health and the protection of others who might suffer the same fate. On the other hand, he spends much of his time twittering about it, throwing shots in the direction of the team and its management.

By Sunday, the situation had become untenable and the Rockets, in a carefully worded statement, let it be known White would be suspended for the week. This followed:

When that was over, White responded to numerous tweets from others, a few showing support, but most laced with vitriol and insults to which he responded with his now-ubiquitous hashtag #BeWell.

The "protocol" White wants implemented is one that supposedly comes from his doctors, but it's far more complicated than that involving contracts, trust and the well-being of an entire franchise. But the constant stream of tweets is making it more and more likely White will never wear a Rockets uniform.

It's one thing to be in a dispute with the team. It's another to take that fight into a public forum like Twitter. As someone who has suffered from anxiety in the past, I feel for the kid, I really do. And I certainly do not condone the insults being hurled his way by ignorant fans and Internet trolls.

But the precedent he is setting for himself is one that will be difficult to overcome. How can a team, a coaching staff or even a teammate trust that White won't continue to air his grievances on Twitter? For now, it has been entirely about his desire to give the public a glimpse into the mental health issue he faces, and that is a commendable pursuit. Admittedly, the NBA, and all of pro sports for that matter, have a long way to go in addressing mental health problems. In leagues where "just be a man and do your job" is not only a mantra but a demanded character trait, it is easy to see how an illness as subtle on the outside as anxiety would not fit well into this world.

But, what happens when his Twitter feed turns from anxiety issues to battles with coaches over playing time or contract negotiations? The way things are going, I doubt the Rockets will ever find out.


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