When I was entering the 9th grade the school district I attended shifted the boundaries of which school students would attend. I lived right on the boundary of both, so I had a choice (sort of): go to the new school on the bus, or stay at the school I attended the last two years and find my own way there. Bad as it was being in junior high, this was a doomsday scenario. The new school was different; it was more… rural. I found that out the first day as a group of the largest 9th graders I had ever scene, clad in wranglers and cowboy boots, locked arms and yelled “STAMPEDE!,” before they began barreling down the hall, trampling anything in their path. I survived by barely slinking into the alcove of a classroom doorway.
A little young, and very underdeveloped for my grade, I had always had to survive on the outskirts of junior high school. When I moved to the new school, I couldn’t do that. I was one of the new kids that had invaded their school, and I suffered through half a year of humiliation at the hands of bullies in my choir class (taking that class was my first mistake). Every time the teacher turned her back, they would start in. Punching me in the face just hard enough to make my head ring, but not enough to cause an outburst; just overt enough so that everyone above me (I sat in the front row, by assignment) could see it. I took the half-year break to get out of the class, and was able to avoid those kids for the rest of the year, but the damage was done.
To this day, bullying makes my blood boil. So, it was when I woke up to see what Blake Griffin had done to a member of his training staff. The Vine has made its rounds. The staffer dutifully attends to the giant athlete, kneeling in front of him on the Clippers bench to wrap his war-torn leg. Then the hulking Griffin takes the opportunity to exploit the precarious position of the therapist by palming the back of his head, like a basketball, and forcefully guide it toward his crotch, as if to guide the physio to fellate the star athlete. As the physio pulls away Griffin turns and laughs jovially, then points to another player and says “Did you see that?” The most lenient description would call it bullying, at its worst, sexual harassment.
The reaction on Twitter was what you would expect; a mix of horror and the minimizing crowd of “oh, it was just a joke.” I expect that one could only take the latter view if one had never experienced that kind of “joking” before. I understood it completely. The domineering Griffin humiliated the physio ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, and it’s nothing new for him. There’s a reason he is such a polarizing figure in the NBA. Loved for his soaring exhibitions of athleticism, but reviled for his petulant attitude and constant bullying. Whether it’s in his nature or if he’s a product of the constant headlines of yet another player “destroyed,” “killed,” or “posterized,” by one of his thunderous dunks, it has become a part of his public persona.
I doubt anyone reading this knows what type of relationship Griffin has with the member of his team’s training staff. I would hope it is a very good one, for Griffin’s sake. If it’s a bond of friendship then Griffin should be ashamed of himself, and go out of his way to make amends publicly and privately. If it’s more of a professional one, than he needs to make the same amends and re-evaluate his interactions with other human beings. In the age of Vine, Twitter, Instagram, and every other method of recording video we all have to be a little warier of what we do in the public arena. Especially if said public arena is an NBA arena filled with 40,000 people, and many hundreds of thousands more watching on television. There is simply no excuse for this behavior.
For those of us who have dealt with these types of situations, seeing something like this over and over induces cringes, and feelings of sympathy. Perhaps it was as innocent as some claim it to be, but the fact of the matter is that a man in a position of power took advantage of a man performing a job that already appears submissive, and that is an extreme breach of trust. Hopefully Griffin does the truly manly thing and apologizes for his conduct, and learns a lesson for the future.
Editor’s Note: Dustin LaMarr’s work appears at SLC Dunk. This is his first contribution to The Diss.