Ole Miss Rebels Star Marshall Henderson Receiving Unfair Backlash

By Joseph Nardone
Spruce Derden–USA TODAY Sports

Say what you want about Ole Miss Rebels guard Marshall Henderson. Polarizing, awesome, the Womp Womp Monster, are just a few quick things that pop to mind when thinking about the volume-shooter. While the nation seems to be split in the middle on whether or not Henderson is good or bad for the game, a new group of naysayers have emerged – the kind that delves into a student-athlete’s past and judges him as a person.

Now I’m not saying that looking at a person as whole, including off the court transgressions, is a horrible idea. However, there is a tighter line one has to walk when judging a student-athlete, after all, they are just kids.

That didn’t stop USA Today from running a featured article on Henderson’s past. One which included a 25-day stint in the pokey for testing positive for cocaine and marijuana. And no, he didn’t use any kind of improper benefit money, but decided upon using currency that has as much legitimacy as monopoly money, counterfeit cash.

So now, as an industry, we are saying that it is okay for us to delve into the past of a now 22-year old. Because as all of you reading know, we all want to be judged on what we did while we were in our early twenties. Yet, this is the line that we have crossed. We traded in the days of reporting on a basketball player’s ability for the chance to judge him as a person.

Instead of watching a college basketball show discuss whether or not Henderson can help Ole Miss go deep into the NCAA Tournament, we are left with the “embrace the debate” format of asking if Henderson is a good person. Because clearly, we have the ability to now judge people strictly by their past as documented through an article whose sole purpose is to generate buzz and continue the narrative they’re currently pushing. Which in the Henderson case, is one of the Rebels guard just being a bad person.

I’ve been on the side of people who think Henderson is good for the game. His antics have led to the number 16th ranked team in the country opening up SportCenter, college basketball getting major buzz during Super Bowl week, and a countless number of casual fans now paying attention in February  Apparently, none of that matters. Now we just want to focus on Henderson, the perceived person, instead of the player. Mind you, that’s all it is, a perceived notion of who Henderson is. Not who he actually is as a person, because nobody knows that except Henderson, his family, and closest friends.

Obviously, if Henderson played for a horrible team or he wasn’t as polarizing a player, none of his past would make for good talking points for radio programs or columnists around the country. But just because you don’t like how he plays on the court doesn’t mean attacking him as a person is okay. All of this usually winds up with the Twitter muscle tough guy talk. How certain folks will only attack others because, in all honesty, they’re cowards who would never do so face to face.

All of these new reports of Henderson’s former alleged drug problems are making its rounds on the internet. If you’re a fan of him, you won’t change your mind and will continue to support him. If you were one of the folks who thought that his antics were that of a thug, well now you have your proof.

But he’s not a professional athlete. He did his time in jail for the crime that he was tried. How is something that is a year old become a story now? Simply put, because Henderson is the biggest name in college basketball at the moment and people need to criticize someone, anyone really. Who better than a polarizing figure like Henderson.

I bash players, you bash players, and everyday we go on without it crossing our minds. But for a student-athlete who is going though the trying times drug addiction brings, we seem more than willing to bash him for something most of us know nothing about. Maybe I’m being pretentious. I’m as guilty at bashing players, programs, conferences, as anyone else who barely forms sentences by bumbling words together.

But I think that it might be time for us to step back and think before reaching for cheap hits or instant gratification as a reader or tweeter. Henderson, or any student-athlete for that matter, doesn’t get paid to play basketball, he gets free school. He doesn’t receive endorsement money, nor does he get a check for Ole Miss using his player likeness to sell some stuff with his face on it, and in return we judge his play on Twitter and in articles.

Henderson goes on one of the sports networks, puts a show on for our amusement, only for us to talk about how he won or lost the game while being as mean as possible not forgetting to judge him as a person from the outside a day later.

Maybe we should stop judging him and start looking in the mirror. I bet what you see, outside of being incredibly good-looking, is a person who can do some more work on themselves before throwing rocks at somebody else’s glass house.

I’m not saying Marshall Henderson is a great person. I’m not saying there isn’t consequences for your actions. All I’m trying to say is, #WompWompMonster. Oh, that didn’t make any sense? Neither does you judging a person you don’t know.

Good day.

Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. For the love of Sam Cassell, follow Joe on the Twitter Machine @JosephNardone

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