The Media’s Mishandling of Ole Miss Rebels Star Marshall Henderson

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Say what you want about Ole Miss Rebels star, Marshall Henderson, but he rarely leaves the world of college hoops with a dull moment. Now, after news broke about the guard being indefinitely suspended, everyone wants to take down the polarizing player — including the media.

For those unaware, Henderson has a past that includes drug-related issues to go along with his quirky demeanor, meaning the people who cover college basketball or look to garner hits for their websites have a trending topic to cover. That in turn means that Henderson is going to be looked at as a buffoon regardless of circumstance.

Keep in mind that Henderson does play basketball for free. The only thing he gets is a free college tuition. That doesn’t stop his fame from rising (even if he is the one helping to perpetuate it), or critics from calling him out on national platforms and from the mean streets of Twitter, taking potshots at a student-athlete who has shown a propensity to fall back to drug use — or what some might call the disease of addiction.

Yesterday, when Erin Andrews decided to take her (apparently necessary) shot at Henderson on Twitter, it got a lot of attention. Her line about Henderson ‘mocking’ might have been funny, but it was equally distasteful especially considering the fact that Andrews is a professional and an adult while Henderson is an amateur who is still a young man.

Andrews, for a lack of a better phrase, went out of her way to troll a student at college.

There was also a slew of columns belittling Henderson, telling Andrew Kennedy to kick him to the curb and some of which basically reverted back to the old narrative of Henderson being a dirtball. That’s not to say some of those were incorrect, but they were certainly off base as the underlying theme is about a person who is seemingly struggling with addiction.

This Henderson debacle is so much more complex than just whether or not he should play soon. It is about how we are treating someone who plays a game for our entertainment for free — while making sure to knock him off his pedestal as soon as possible. It is also about whether or not he would get the benefit of the doubt if he were another race. Also, it has to do with his seemingly carefree (or for those who dislike him, aloof) behavior.

Finally, and most importantly, it has to do with him being famous and being used as a punching bag despite Henderson being an amateur and showing immense signs of drug addiction.

No, this isn’t about whether or not student-athletes should be paid. It isn’t about whether or not Henderson did this to himself — because technically, he did. This whole saga has far more to do with how we treat someone famous. Or more so, how we treat someone famous as an inanimate object and not as a person who may be suffering without even knowing it.

I’m not sticking up for Henderson or saying what he has done in his life is correct. He isn’t handling this well at all, although, imagine having a child of your own in college — would you be reacting the same way if the world found out about everyone one of their missteps? Heck, even if they were glorifying it on social media, I doubt you would want that stuff brought up during dinner at grandma’s, nevertheless nationally.

Somehow, because Henderson plays a game for our entertainment for free, we are allowed to poke holes in everything he does.

Not only does that scream hypocrisy, it also screams irresponsibility that people — presumably grown adults — are perfectly fine with putting a person in long-term trouble in a situation where they openly mock them on a national platform.

Because, you know, those are the same folk who get upset when someone asks for an autograph while at dinner. Imagine if every one of their mistakes was broadcast all over the place …

Now imagine that happening while all their mistakes happened at college — where kids are, you know, kids.

Me, Twitter @JosephNardone


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  • http://www.rantsports.com/blog/author/patrickschmidt/feed/ Patrick Schmidt

    Well said. I found Erin Andrews’ tweet completely irresponsible and pretty tacky considering she is a high-profile journalist and took a cheap shot at a kid struggling with addiction. Call me crazy, but I don’t see how that is professional or even something a decent human beign would do. He has made a lot of mistakes like you wrote and you’re not condoning them or excusing them, and I’m not either. I hope Ole Miss gets him help and that Marshall is receptive to it. I read today he talked with former NBA and Fresno State guard Chris Herren who battles a near fatal drug addiction. Let’s hope Henderson walks the straight line from now on and won’t be a cautionary tale like Herren years from now.

    • Joseph Nardone

      Thanks Patrick! We are obviously on the same page on this topic. Personally I feel iffy about poking fun at anyone that clearly has an addiction problem, nevertheless someone who is not a professional. To be even more honest about it, Andrews’ tweet screams ‘look at me’ all while she is helping perpetuate Henderson’s issues and throw them even more into the spotlight. Hopefully Ole Miss realizes that he has done a lot for them in terms of hoops and money, so they will get him right before he leaves their campus — regardless if he ever dribbles a basketball for them again. Far too often we only think about things in just ‘sports related’ terms and forget these guys are people. People who can mess up, have feelings, have defense mechanisms and so forth. Like you said, though, no one is condoning what he has done. Just hope everyone around him, including outside people like Herren, worry more about Henderson the person in the long-term and not just Henderson the guy trying to get back on the court.