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Grappling With Derrick Rose Fandom

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Redemption arcs on one end, toxic masculinity on the other.

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

For the past six months, it has been extremely challenging to write about the Timberwolves and Derrick Rose. For context, Rose was accused of gang rape in 2016, along with two friends, in civil court and was acquitted of allegations. Clinton Yates at The Undefeated breaks down the case here, for those who are currently uninformed.

The case hit all the depressing tropes that we have come to know. Rose did not have a grasp on the meaning of consent, at one point asking the prosecutor what the term meant. Rose’s lawyers worked to damage the credibility of the accuser, claiming she was portraying herself as sexual (aka asking for it). Statements that the accused was black-out drunk, and previously had specifically requested not to have group sex, were discounted.

At the end of the day, Rose was acquitted. He returned to the NBA. A few of the jurors also posed for pictures afterwards, brushing up against fame in perhaps the ugliest way possible.

As a Timberwolves writer, I often struggle with how often to bring up this context. Should it be included every time Rose is incorporated into a game recap? Does there need to be a permanent asterisk next to his name?

Derrick Rose scored 15 points along with five assists. He was instrumental in pushing the pace, although he had quite a few wild shots and turnovers that hurt his efficiency. And for those who don’t remember or somehow are reading this and have never heard, he was also acquitted in a gang rape trial, which is being appealed in a few weeks. Rose literally did not know the meaning of consent, by the way.

Or perhaps we are abstract, mentioning obscure “off-court” issues that may pique the curiosity of unknowing fans. But those same issues can mean anything really. The Wolves have been plagued by distractions and issues that have nothing to do with basketball this season revolving around the soap opera demands of their star player. (His name is Jimmy Butler, in case you’re in the dark on that front as well.) But that’s hardly a matter of significance in comparison.

Then there’s the route the social media team has taken, which seems like pure propaganda, pushing the Derrick Rose redemption storyline at every chance.

For those of us who have been left seriously uncomfortable, which has been plenty of Wolves twitter as well as the regular commentators on this site, we were left somewhat hopeful that the Rose debacle would be swept up in the Jimmy Butler fiasco. That Butler would be traded, Thibs fired, and perhaps whoever the next coach would be could bury Rose on the depth chart, letting us pretend like all of this never happened. It would be another embarrassing blemish, but one that would soon go away.

But here we are. Derrick Rose scored 50 points and led the Wolves to victory over the Utah Jazz without Jimmy Butler. And the redemption arc is out in full force.

But who am I to push back? Me? I’m merely some random guy that lives out-of-state, who blogs about the Wolves as a way to stay connected to the place I grew up.

If you ask Rose’s teammates, many of those who cover the team on a day-to-day basis, the color commentators, or those around the league, we hear the constant refrain of a person who has lost everything but has worked extraordinarily hard to get back to this point. The former MVP debilitated by injuries (and that other stuff we don’t mention), who finally found someone who believed in him again in Tom Thibodeau. Working through all the tribulations on and off the court. The teammates who embraced him. The tears, the joy, the hardship, the work.

After all, I too was ecstatic at Rose rope-a-doping Rudy Gobert for a game-tying layup in the fourth. The crossover, step-back three in the corner was incredible. His emotions after the game were palpable. His teammates were ecstatic. The crowd at Target Center leaped to its feet with wild MVP chants.

It seems easier instead to abdicate responsibility to the team to deal with this issue. After all, we are not a populist mob, and there are proper channels for this sort of thing. But yet, this is a team that has consistently ignored sexual assault cases, as laid out by our own Eric in Madison here. Hell, Rick Brunson (mentioned in the article) resigned last spring following sexual harassment claims, which everyone treated like an open secret instead of surprisingly disgusting conduct detrimental to the franchise and its leaders.

The NBA is the “woke” league right? An Association of players willing and able to speak out against social justice issues. A place where our superstars can tussle with the President, who also faced numerous sexual assault allegations and famously claimed he could grab women wherever he wanted.

The same league where the Dallas Mavericks simply received a slap on the wrist for an entire culture of sexual harassment, which you can read about here. Or perhaps the continued deification of Kobe Bryant, whose rape case in hindsight is chock-full of media slut-shaming and little remorse, which you can read about here.

So where does the redemption tour end and insidious toxic masculinity begin?

We seem to have no idea as a society how to deal with and punish sexual assault. Louis C.K. admittedly masturbated in front of women for years, yet a few months after he was shunned from the Hollywood scene, his redemption tour in New York City’s Comedy Circuit—with seemingly little remorse—is already well under way.

But again, who am I to besmirch a man’s name. It is all he has right? He was acquitted after all.

“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”

“He has got a lot of stuff going on off the court and I am not a judge, I am not a jury, and to my estimation he has not been convicted of anything,” says Wolves’ broadcaster Jim Petersen. “But what he is ... he plays hard. He is a gutty basketball player.”

I guess there is little room for nuance in sports. Our collective escape from the madness of the world plasters over the terrible actions of some for the tribal joy of the majority.

But yet, there is the unnamed accuser who stands alone. So very alone. The unnamed defendant who no one asked for pictures with after the trial. That has been easy to see in the comments of the articles on this site following certain games that Rose has succeeded in. I’m sure it will happen in the comments of this one as well.

In a country where rape is historically under-reported, where one in five women have experienced rape or attempted rape, where only 63 percent of rapes are reported to the police, that accuser is still out there. They are still appealing an earlier decision with no national media attention, no redemption narrative, and likely watching everyone applaud Rose’s 50 point night with little support for the other side.

And all I can do is sit here, grappling with the Derrick Rose praise and fandom that still widely exists.