By Max Newton
J.R Smith retired from his professional basketball career in 2020 after playing 15 seasons for 4 separate teams. He had a very successful National Basketball Association (NBA) career, winning 2 championships and being a prominent player on most teams he played on. After retirement, he had to figure out what was next for him, he ultimately decided he wanted to go to college, he ended up enrolling and North Carolina AT&T State. On top of going to school, he received a waiver from the NCAA giving him permission to play college golf while at school (usually professional athletes lose their NCAA eligibility for athletics once they receive compensation for a sport). Having gone straight from high school to the NBA, J.R Smith had previously missed out on his chance to go to college and get an education, now he has a chance to get that opportunity.
While this would seem like an opportunity to promote his decision, publicly celebrate the fact that a rich, prominent star is taking the time to go to college at an older age, the media didn’t see it as an opportunity to do so. They mocked J.R Smith, made fun of his decisions, portrayed him as a partier, Hennessy drinker, and that he was going to college as a joke of some sort (Diddy, 2021). The media played into the stereotype of an African American going to college. To J.R Smiths credit, he ended up calling out the media, specifically BuzzFeed who were heavy contributors to this negative press.
Here’s where I see the issue, this was an opportunity for the media to promote the decision J.R Smith made, a chance to share his story with the world, show little kids everywhere the maturity and dedication J.R Smith is showing and how he is making a decision in order to better his quality of life. He doesn’t need a degree to get a job that makes more money, he has plenty of money ($90 million career earnings (J.R Smith Career Earnings, 2021)). The media was simply looking for a quick hit on an article and ultimately, they approached this topic insensitively and unethically. If instead, they had brought J.R Smith in to do an interview, give him a voice to share his story and help inspire people everywhere, this decision by J.R Smith would have had a much greater impact on people around the world, especially African American kids. Imagine being an African American kid and seeing all the negative press and hate that J.R Smith was getting for simply wanting to go to school? Would that inspire and motivate you to want to go to college? Or would that make you potentially shy away from that route?
In the end, the media, specifically BuzzFeed handled this situation terribly. They had an opportunity to really showcase this decision made by a prominent figure but instead used it as a mockery in hopes of a quick laugh. I guess I understand that their page primarily focuses on these aspects of stories but this situation truly seems like a missed opportunity and one where they could have been able to help change lives and help change the culture of race in the world by simply giving J.R Smith a platform to share his opinion.
Diddy, S. (2021, August 15). NBA’s JR Smith BLAST Media Cracking Jokes About His Return To College. Retrieved from KMEL: https://kmel.iheart.com/featured/shay-diddy/content/2021-08-25-nbas-jr-smith-blast-media-cracking-jokes-about-his-return-to-college/
J.R Smith Career Earnings. (2021). Retrieved from sportrac: https://www.spotrac.com/nba/los-angeles-lakers/jr-smith-2296/cash-earnings/