Royce White Urges NBA to Update Mental Health Policy on 'The Last Renaissance'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2018

Philadelphia 76ers' Royce White looks on during the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, in Philadelphia.  The Nets win 127-97.  (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

In an article for The Last Renaissance on Friday, former NBA forward Royce White called for the league to implement a better and more comprehensive mental health policy.

White wrote that a letter he sent to the NBA in 2015 about putting a metal health policy in place was ignored, and while the league has since acknowledged that one is needed, White isn't satisfied:

"Despite that dismissal, 3 years later the first written acknowledgment of mental health entered the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). A part of me was proud of that movement. However, I've never been big on moral victories. The other part of me felt like I and many others (humanity at large), were slapped in the face by this gesture. The new language in the CBA basically states, 'we will tackle mental health in the future.' Is it not both arrogant and condescending to POST DATE a policy that you're 20 years late on? Today we are faced with even more distortion. The incentive toward superficiality has exacerbated. Economic prosperity, brand visibility and the fan engagement of the NBA is at an all-time high. WE ARE ALL immersed in a steady windfall of unique technological advancement and social connectivity. I continue to fear that the impetus toward true comprehensive health is stifled."

White was selected by the Houston Rockets with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft out of Iowa State, but he never appeared in a regular-season game for the Rockets.

His only NBA regular-season action to date came in 2013-14, when he played three games for the Sacramento Kings.

White suffers from anxiety and a fear of flying, which contributed to his lack of a sustained run in the NBA.

He wrote that several people linked to the NBA have backed up his assertion that the league long ignored the need for a mental health policy:

"My claim that policy didn't exist has now been verified over the last 5 years by a variety of people from within the NBA. This includes players, coaches, GM's, former team doctors and psychologists. National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) director Michelle Roberts recently described the attention to the mental health topic as 'NAIVE.'"

White also wrote about how his views on mental health were received by the NBA, as well as the NBA's rationale behind not establishing a mental health policy sooner:

"My opinion that mental illness was a pandemic was mocked and called 'radical.' ... In the internal talks, those speaking on behalf of the NBA communicated that the main fear and rejection of our proposed mental health policy was that it would create an unconstrained opportunity for players to FAKE MENTAL ILLNESSES."

High-profile NBA players, such as Cleveland Cavaliers big man Kevin Love and Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, have recently begun to open up about their mental health struggles.

In March, Love wrote about suffering a panic attack during a game for the Players' Tribune.

Prior to that, DeRozan spoke with Doug Smith of the Toronto Star about suffering from depression and anxiety.

In the wake of Love and DeRozan going public, the NBA announced in May that it was launching a mental health and wellness program led by former NBA guard Keyon Dooling.


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