This much is true: No one thought Derrick Rose was capable of going off for 50 points, as he did in a 128–125 Wolves win over the Jazz on Wednesday. Rose, likely to be the only MVP to never make the Hall-of-Fame, is most charitably considered a spark plug off the bench these days, far from the elite scorer he was during his heyday. He joined Mo Williams and Corey Brewer as the most shocking members of Minnesota’s 50-point club, and his big scoring night came in an upset victory amid what’s been a tumultuous season for the Wolves. But the rush to make a hero out of Rose—who was crying on the court after a game-sealing block—is uncomfortable at best, and dangerous at worst.
I don’t know the best way to write about Derrick Rose. I can think of many people (most of them women) who are better equipped to handle what is, to put it lightly, a complicated situation. There’s no doubt Rose, the basketball player, battled back from adversity on the court—a torn ACL, multiple knee surgeries. That adversity is also often conflated with his civil rape case, with oblique references to Rose’s low points only somewhat acknowledging what was an eye-opening situation. Again, his civil rape case is either being glossed over or ignored completely when people talk about what Rose has battled back from. (The Wolves’ broadcast went the other way and blatantly connected Rose’s personal life with his professional.) Some people will say his rape case has nothing to do with what he’s overcome as a basketball player. But that doesn’t make it feel any less gross when he’s widely celebrated for ... scoring a lot of points?
Look at tweets like this one. Or this one. Or maybe this one. It seems a little too easy for people to be celebrating Rose during what’s supposed to be a cultural shift in how we view matters of alleged sexual assault. Rose was found not liable during a civil case. He also admitted under oath he doesn’t understand the word consent, said in court that sex was assumed with his accuser because “we men” and tried to ruin the reputation of his accuser by bringing up her sexual history. This has all been documented before (Clinton Yates did a great job here), but Rose’s actions at the time of his trial were a reflection of the ills of rape culture, and it’s unclear what—if anything—he’s learned from the experience.
There is maybe a way to talk about Derrick Rose the basketball player, and discuss how surprising his 50-point game was, without gleefully celebrating him in a way that’s almost definitely offensive to those affected by sexual assault. I don’t know what that way is, or how to do it, and I certainly don’t feel like the person who should be making any decisions. I do know that soft-focus profiles of Rose, that ignore his rape case completely, are not the way to go.
Rose isn’t going away any time soon. (Hell, as long as Tom Thibodeau is in the league, every 2011 Chicago Bull will be employed.) But his longevity as a basketball player doesn’t earn him a reprieve from both the details of the case and his problematic statements. Celebrating Rose so easily now only further obscures a case that still requires thoughtful examination. Unfortunately, the obfuscation of Rose’s past is less surprising than a 50-point game.