UPDATE: I was able to speak with Greg Taylor, Senior Vice President of Player Development for the NBA who runs this program, and he provided some additional context.
The NBA’s rookie transition program is a very good thing, a positive and proactive step taken by the league to educate young players on the many intricacies of being suddenly rich and famous.
But after hearing some of the details of exactly what went on at this year’s version, it’s hard to argue some of the information was presented in extremely poor taste.
We got a look at some of the quirks of the program back in August, when New York Times author Sarah Lyall was tweeting tidbits from the event as it happened. Now that her story has been published, we see in greater detail how at least a couple of items probably should have been handled a bit differently.
And in a session on how to make good decisions, they were shown clips from familiar movies and asked to vote, using handheld devices, on what the characters should do next. After a scene from “Blue Jasmine” in which a character gets into a fight with her boyfriend after she sleeps with another man, the players voted on what they would have done, with options including “hit the girlfriend” and “leave and go get high and drunk.” (No one chose those.) Sixty-two percent of the rookies said they would “call another girl and hang out with her.”
This is probably intended to shed some humor on how obvious it should be not to make some of those choices. But considering what’s going on in the NFL at the moment, the “hit the girlfriend” option is disgusting, even as a misguided attempt to steer players in the right direction.
Then, there was this portion, where players were subjected to graphic images in order to … deter them from engaging in excessive sexual activity?
Money is one thing; women are another altogether. “We joke that the moment you sign your contract, you become far more handsome than the day before,” Taylor said. Detlef Schrempf, who was at the program to share his own experience in the N.B.A. in the 1980s and ’90s, agreed. “You’re talking about superstar athletes and male hormones,” he said. “For those who want to partake, it’s easily accessible 24/7.”
To deter the rookies from partaking, there was a slide show juxtaposing photographs of beautiful semi-clad women with photographs of hideously diseased genitalia. There was also a handout listing how much child support the rookies would be required to pay in various states, should they find themselves in sudden possession of a child after a one-night stand. “It was disturbing,” said Tyler Ennis, 20, a freshman star at Syracuse University who was drafted to play for the Phoenix Suns.
Sounds like it.
Again, we don’t doubt that this program has the best of intentions. And of course, when trying to get young athletes to take to heart what’s being said, the information needs to be presented in a way that will grab their attention.
But these two instances seem to cross the line.