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I Don’t Want to Root for Derrick Rose

This is my first of a weekly series of opinion columns — going forward, these will be published each Monday.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday evening, as the Sixers closed in on a gutsy road victory over the Brooklyn Nets that was due in large part to their suffocating fourth-quarter defense and a career game by Ben Simmons, Yahoo Sports reporter Chris Haynes tweeted his knowledge of the team’s interest in former MVP, current Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose:

On face value, the Sixers should be interested in trading for Derrick Rose. On the court, Rose is enjoying a quality season off the bench for the middling Pistons. He is averaging 18 points and nearly 6 assists in about 26 minutes per contest. Now healthy after battling injuries in recent years, the former league MVP is back to scoring efficiently with the ball in his hands, running the second unit. As an archetype, Rose is absolutely a player the Sixers could use. For a team with title aspirations that often struggles to score in the half court, a spark-plug, sixth-man type like Rose makes tons of sense. When you factor in the inconsistent play of current Sixers backup point guards Raul Neto and Trey Burke — both of whom head coach Brett Brown seems to vacillate between liking and expelling to the doghouse — he seems like a shoo-in.

Sure, he’s not a perfect player. He wouldn’t fit the team’s ‘defense-first, bully’ ethos, as Rose has never been a particularly committed or accomplished defender, and his 3-point shooting (31 percent on three attempts per game this season) could make him a clunky fit in lineups with Simmons. But the team won’t be able to be too picky at the deadline. The perfect player most likely isn’t out there, and the Sixers only have so many tradable assets in their quest to improve the bench and crunch-time lineups. Rose’s salary is only a little over $7 million, a number that wouldn’t be difficult to match if both parties were interested.

The impetus for this piece and my adamant insistence that the Sixers should not trade for Rose are completely to do with the alleged gang rape that was said to have occurred in 2013, and the ensuing trial, after which Rose and his friends were found not liable in 2016. The grisly details of the case that emerged when Rose’s accuser brought them to light in 2015 include claims that Rose and two friends broke into her apartment, drugged her and raped her while she was inebriated on an August 2013 night.

The Guardian’s Anya Alvarez summed up many of my feelings in a piece from 2018, written to combat Rose’s asinine Hero’s journey and comeback tour that was being celebrated after he had a couple good games. In Alvarez’s piece, she outlines some of the nuances of the trial, including Rose’s admittance that he did not know what ‘consent’ was, the fact that jurors approached Rose after the verdict and posed for smiling pictures with him, and this, from her piece:

Courtesy: Anya Alvarez, The Guardian, 2018

As I said, in the end, Rose and his two friends were found not liable, and the accuser’s 2018 appeal was denied.

Many will read that sentence and bellow, ‘Innocent until proven guilty! He was cleared!’ as a reason to feel totally comfortable supporting Rose without pause. He was, after all, found not liable. This is true. It is also, in my opinion, remarkably and irresponsibly reductive. It conveniently ignores the aforementioned details of the case in which Rose was ensnared. It turns a blind eye to the guard’s reaction both during and after the trial, and the reactions of the jurors in the trial. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ pays no heed to the statistics involved in sexual assault cases. Less than 1% of rapes lead to felony convictions, and at least 89% of victims then incur emotional and or physical consequences, according to The Washington Post. It should be noted that the 89% of victims represents the percentage who report physical distress and injury. I would argue that 100% of victims suffer tremendous physical and emotional consequences for the rest of their lives.

Oftentimes people wonder aloud why it took a woman x amount of years to report an incident, and why at times they never bring it to the authorities at all. Look no further than the statistic above for why. Or maybe skim some of the quotes from anonymous jurors (his fans, remember?) in the Rose trial from after the case was adjourned. One said, “I felt like she was playing us.” Minutes after the verdict, Adidas reaffirmed their sponsorship with Derrick Rose. As it pertains to Derrick Rose and other cases of sexual violence, especially those that include a Jane Doe alleging a crime against a beloved former MVP with fans the world over, ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is a platitude that I feel abandons both statistical and societal context.

There are, of course, Sixers fans who want to acquire Derrick Rose for the simple fact that he’s good at basketball and could help the Sixers win basketball games. They mean not to victim shame or victim blame, they just want to root for their favorite team without necessarily considering the people they are in the real world. We don’t really know any of these guys.

I can’t get there.

I really like the tidbits that we get to know about the guys who play for the Sixers. I love watching videos of the team ribbing Matisse Thybulle for his inadequate Popeyes order, or Tobias Harris manning the team bus loudspeaker. Millions of Sixers fans don’t just lionize Joel Embiid because he has great footwork in the post. We love him because he identified with this fan base on a personal level. In turn, we took particular interest in the big man and his story.

It is my opinion that this can’t be à la carte. It’s hypocritical to pick and choose which player’s real life story and goings-on you care about. You either root for laundry or you root for more than that, and more than that includes the stuff that makes you uncomfortable. This isn’t meant to be hifalutin virtue signaling; it’s meant to be a sober look at a particular Sixers trade target, and the ugly story that follows him if you really care to take a look.

I absolutely love the Sixers. I care about them deeply, and take true interest in the personal stories of the guys who wear the jerseys. It’s why I write for this website, and it’s why a November loss to Charlotte can ruin my Thanksgiving. I don’t want to feel gross watching them because of the pernicious backstory of a key contributor. Take this upcoming Super Bowl for example. As a lifelong Eagles fan, I want to root for Andy Reid to get a ring, but the thought of rejoicing when Tyreek Hill and Frank Clark hoist the trophy kind of makes me sick.

So, do what you want. Elton Brand and the Sixers are going to look for many different ways to improve prior to the February 6 trade deadline. If they trade for Derrick Rose, he will improve the team’s on-court chances to win games, for the most part. Think of how he would help them score against Milwaukee or Toronto in the playoffs. Think of how his scoring punch could significantly help the team’s at-times-anemic half-court offense. But while you’re thinking of that, I’ll just ask you to also consider the Jane Doe from his 2016 trial, who is still out there, and who deserves far more than to be a footnote on his Wikipedia page.

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