The unfiltered personality of outgoing Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson is part of what made him such a polarizing player on the hardwood. Henderson's impulsive behavior resulted in a strange Twitter rant after the St. Louis Rams selected Missouri's Michael Sam in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft Saturday, making him the first openly gay player drafted into the league.
At first Henderson's series of tweets displayed bigotry and ignorance, but then he claimed it was for a friend's psychology project.
Henderson claimed Monday he would be boycotting ESPN since the network broadcast from Sam's home as the Rams drafted the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year (warning: tweets contain NSFW language):
Boycotting sportscenter til this michael sam nasty ass shit is off .... My brothers are 7 and 11 and saw that!!! #SICKENING— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
Im sorry, but I DO NOT AGREE WHATSOEVER that should be shown to where innocent eyes can see!!!— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
A lot of backlash followed, which led to Henderson calling out those who chastised him for his opinion:
POINT #3: Who is the worse person, me for what I said or any of the HUNDREDS who just cursed me?? LOL uh oh... #ThisIsFun— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
Rebels athletics director Ross Bjork wasn't too pleased with what Henderson initially had to say:
I'm extremely disappointed & we do not condone the statements made by our former bball player. We believe in respect & dignity for all......— Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) May 12, 2014
We use significant resources to educate our student-athletes about respect & dignity for all people & unfortunately not everyone gets it....— Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) May 12, 2014
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports weighed in on Henderson's comments, suggesting the former Rebel won't be drafted in the NBA:
Nobody will care who Marshall Henderson kisses on NBA draft day. He won't get picked.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) May 12, 2014
But then things took a turn, as Henderson claimed his friend told him to tweet what he did in order to gauge people's reactions to his antics for a psychology experiment of sorts:
THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR YOUR INPUT AND RESPONSES!!! MY NEXT TWEET IS REALLY GONNA THROW EVERYONE A CURVEBALL— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
One of my best friends, WHO IS GAY, is about to graduate in psychology, asked me to say these things so he can have responses ... TBC— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
The point of his study was to see how people react when others say things or act a certain way against another group of people ... TBC— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
He chose gays because of how he relates to it and has to live it EVERYDAY of his life ... He asked me because he knew I would get incredible— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
Feedback, and OMG how crazy you people are lol ... It is absolutely amazing to see what people have said, whether agreeing or disagreeing— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
What compelled Henderson to use the "#SICKENING" hashtag seemed to stem from the fact that ESPN showed Sam kissing his boyfriend after the Rams selected him. The vitriol apparently surprised Henderson, along with how split the reaction was:
People shouldn't be so fast to judge or react..... RIGHT OR WRONG???— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
As far as his actual views, Henderson didn't commit either way but noted that his previous, apparently bigoted remarks were purely for his friend's benefit:
As far as what I said, Totally was 100% for the project ... as far as my ACTUAL views - its irrelevant because its gonna happen regardless!— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
Henderson then apologized for yanking everyone's chain:
Sorry for messing with everyone like that!!! Everyone really helped my boy AND FOR THAT WE ARE EXTREMELY APPRECIATIVE!!!— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
ITS CALLED PSYCHOLOGY .... and everyone just got taken to school— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
THANK YOU MICHAEL SAM FOR STANDING UP FOR YOU AND MAKING THIS WHOLE PROJECT POSSIBLE!!! TRYING TO BRIDGE THE GAP ONE DAY AT A TIME!!— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) May 12, 2014
Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com weighed in once Henderson was done:
Marshall Henderson playing more defense now than he ever has in a basketball uniform.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) May 12, 2014
The Clarion-Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger brought up an interesting point with regard to Ole Miss:
Important to note about Marshall Henderson's excuse: finals were last week.— Hugh Kellenberger (@HKellenbergerCL) May 12, 2014
While Sam was a productive college player at Mizzou and made history as the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, Henderson was talented but very inconsistent and encountered a slew of off-court issues. Chief among his transgressions was getting caught with marijuana and cocaine in July 2013, which ultimately got him suspended for the first three games of the 2013-14 campaign.
This past season, Henderson averaged 19 points as a senior but shot a meager 35.3 percent from the field. Between that inefficiency as a scorer, a checkered past and Monday's strange saga directed at Sam and ESPN, there's little chance any NBA team would take a chance on Henderson in the future.
Sam will be facing a lot of media attention and will generate a slew of diverse reactions due to his unique circumstances, but he will have no trouble dismissing this commentary. Henderson may have had noble intentions for a friend, but this was overall in rather poor taste even if it was in the name of research—though it did cause a huge reaction.
Like the results he produced at Ole Miss, this theatrical social media routine Henderson pulled off is little more than noise without any substance.