By Alex Frandsen, sports columnist
Over the course of the past week, you would be forgiven for mistaking ESPN for TMZ. The dominant topic of conversation on SportsCenter for a couple days was focused on a bizarre saga involving D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, with the former asking the latter about his various hook-ups while secretly capturing the whole thing on camera and posting it briefly online. This would be fine and all, if a little distasteful, except for a pretty glaring fact: Young, otherwise known as Swaggy P, is engaged to (former?) rapper Iggy Azalea. So once the Internet got its hands on the video, the public blew up.
Except the focus wasn’t on Young cheating – it was on Russell for taping the private conversation and then posting it on the web. Based on the comments athletes and media figures made, you would think Russell had killed Young’s dog. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who is known primarily for thinking his opinion has more value if yelled, said that Russell “would never be trusted again.” He then advised the Lakers to consider trading him. Former basketball player Stephen Jackson, who is primarily known for deciding to go punch someone in the stands in the middle of a game, reminded us that “snitches get stitches.” Almost the entire outcry was directed at Russell with very few exceptions.
This reaction is both wrong and troubling in a few different ways. Simply put, Russell did not commit some disgusting, deplorable act to catch Young in the act. He and Young had been apparently videotaping each other all season as part of an ongoing prank, and this was just the latest iteration. It should also be noted that Russell is 20 years old. This generation literally videotapes everything. I have probably been captured on camera more in the past year than my dad has in his whole life. It’s not like Russell bugged the room and set up hidden lenses. He was just doing what kids his age do. And plus, 20-year-olds are known for one thing, it is for making dumb decisions. That’s all this was – a not-that-funny prank that went disastrously wrong when Russell made the dumb decision to post it online. Yet his teammates, fans and nearly everyone in the sports world have made him a pariah.
That treatment signals a deep confusion of priorities in locker rooms and sports as a whole. What Russell did was short-sighted and regrettable. But what Young did was violate a sacred trust with his fiancee. Cheating on your fiancée is no accident; it is the worst thing you can do in a relationship. No matter your feelings on Iggy’s music, she deserves better. Young treated their commitment like a joke – like he does with most things – and he got outed for it. It’s unfortunate that a teammate did it, but Young’s transgression doesn’t suddenly become any lighter because Russell messed up too.
For all these players to come out and tear Russell apart while forgetting entirely about the cheating is indicative of a culture of misogyny. Maintaining the “bro code” is more important than Young treating his fiancée like garbage. You know that old saying in high school, “bros before hos?” This is that same amateurish slogan carried out in the adult world. Russell made an immature decision, but he has some semblance of an excuse – he isn’t even old enough to drink yet. Stephen A. Smith, Stephen Jackson and all the others? They are grown men. All they’ve shown with their statements is that they’re no more mature than Russell.