NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently spoke on a panel at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference where he noted that he saw that a number of NBA players were truly unhappy, and wants to figure out ways to address the issues athletes face in the social media age.
This, naturally, sparked plenty of conversation and among those that spoke up was TNT analyst Charles Barkley. The Hall of Famer called Silver’s statements “totally bogus,” citing how much money NBA players make now and insisting that it’s impossible to be sad if you make millions of dollars.
On Thursday morning, ESPN analyst Jay Williams went off on Barkley on Get Up!, explaining why his comments upset him and how they cause people with anxiety and depression to bottle it up and not speak on it, because they’ll get publicly ridiculed for it.
“I fervently disagree. There are times where Charles Barkley can say whatever he wants on TV and he’s Teflon Don, I get it, it doesn’t matter what he says, but he’s wrong on that one. Adam Silver was talking about anxiety and depression. I feel like it’s an older generation thing where they equate happiness to the amount of money you make. People all have internal struggles, and what happens with that, when he says things like that, that automatically challenges people opening up to talk about things that are driving them to whatever those issues are in their life and that forces people to shut down.
“So instead of just attacking people by saying, ‘Oh you have no problems in the world.’ You don’t walk in their shoes. You may have made money and been a superstar, but you don’t walk in their shoes of those individuals. You weren’t raised in the age of social media and don’t know how that can affect you and how you’re raised with that. So show empathy towards that and let’s help people saying that, ‘I have issues,’ instead of attacking them. I get pissed off about that.”
It’s good that Williams is willing to speak up and make this point on a big platform, because there is a negative effect when Barkley or someone else says something like he did. There’s always a rush to tell athletes to, for lack of a better phrase, shut up and dribble when it comes to voicing their problems, particularly when it comes to mental health.
So many boys grow up playing sports being told to ignore feelings and that sadness or emotion are forms of weakness, and it creates tons of problems down the line. Part of what helps change that trend is prominent athletes speaking out about their own experiences with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues to strip away the stigma attached to them. Barkley’s comments only exacerbate the problem, by making those that talk about those issues seam weak.