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On Rudy Gay and the Consumption of Athletes

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It's the nature of the business, I'm told. In order to access the economy of their talents, basketball players have to perform for a basketball platform. The NBA platform is the consensus best platform for global basketball talent, and by participating with the platform, the players are agreeing to forgo many aspects of human life that fans take for granted.

There is a video of Rudy Gay after hitting the game winner in Utah on 1/14 in circulation. The way the video is presented in a way that exploits Rudy Gay, his wife, and his children. TMZ decided to post a video of a random person berating Rudy after leaving a club last night, and he got into the same car as a group of women. That's it. That's the whole video. Rudy got into a car with people after ignoring an annoying fan with a camera.

From TMZ, January 15th:


I want to be clear when it comes to issues of hypervisibility. Who Rudy enters a car with is not our business as fans. It is not our business as journalists. How Rudy plays basketball for our team is our business.

There is another business at work here. It's a business that operates on stereotypes, generalizations. This idea that we as fans/media "own" the players on our teams and can access every aspect of their lives is wrong.

By engaging with this material without critical thinking, we allow ourselves to be outraged by... a man ignoring a camera and getting into a car. Without critical thinking, we allow ourselves to be swept up into a game of images. Rudy is an NBA player, which is often presented as a diva-like identity. He is a man on the road away from his family. As fans, we are constantly fed the narrative of NBA player indulgence. I can relate to the idea that Rudy's visual identity as an African person compounds this narrative. When a Kings player is labelled as "pulling hot chicks from club" for simply leaving in a car with people, maybe there's some stench to the whispers of the Kings being specifically targeted for bad press.

"Pulling hot chicks" is an equally gross disservice to the women in the video at the same time. They are reduced from human people to objects to be won after hitting game winners. These women in Utah might have unfairly run into their own set of "character" questions because of this video snipe. They are passively reduced to trophies, and by Rudy entering a car with them, we are left to question his character without knowing a damn thing about his actual self.

The NBA media at large will not hold TMZ accountable for this repeated tactic of ambushing players to craft stories defaming their personal characters. Here in Sacramento, we've shown that we defend our community time and time again. Rudy is part of this community and Sacramento should not let attacks on his character stand. It starts with ourselves, with what we discuss, what we engage with, and how information is presented. We don't need to hold TMZ to a higher standard. We need to hold ourselves above them.