The Sports Empathy Problem: Dwayne Haskins Deserved Better Than Lame Commentary

Dwayne-haskins-obituary
Image: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images.

So let me get this straight.

A 24-year-old NFL quarterback who was a former first round pick and Heisman Trophy finalist who excelled at one of the true “blue blood” college football factories (Ohio State), is killed after being hit by a dump truck and the first report about this tells us about his struggles as a player, before telling us he died?

You don’t have to know anything about Dwayne Haskins to know that he deserved better than this.

And the saddest part is that when you learn more about the man, it’s even more infuriating that his family and friends didn’t even get 24 hours to mourn his death before dealing with this kind of nonsense that inevitably comes up because the most scarce commodity for the human race now, is empathy.

Image: Twitter.

In this particular instance, someone with empathy wouldn’t have even thought about this let alone express it publicly.

And no, saying, “sorry for your loss” to the agent of the player who just died while you take a cheap shot at that player moments later via social media, doesn’t count.

In the journalism world, raising points that should be secondary to the point of the story, is referred to as burying the lead.

For those not in that world, it’s called inexcusable, classless and lacking empathy which is the one thing above all else you would think anyone—yes, even journalists—would have in a moment like this.

But Schefter has shown us all that he’s…different.

I’m not going to waste any time or energy running down all the head-scratching missteps he has taken just in the last year, but this link gives you an idea. As bad as he was, there was even worse commentary which came from former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt who described Haskins as, “a guy living to be dead.”

Like Schefter, Brandt came under tremendous heat from social media and others throughout the NFL family, and later issued a formal apology. Schefter apparently apologized as well, doing so on his podcast.

But this isn’t about trying to make right what was a clear and ignorant wrong.

These are just two of the most recent examples of how apparently difficult it is for some to have grace for athletes, and treat them with the same dignity in death as they would any other human being.

Athletes, especially Blacks ones, have for too long been viewed as merely entertainment put on the field to amuse. That’s why it’s so easy for some to disregard the fact that Haskins leaves behind many loved ones who are hurting now because he’s no longer among the living, and would instead prefer to discuss his struggles in the NFL.

Now does that mean that you completely blow off what he has done as a player in the NFL, or pretend that he hasn’t struggled mightily as a pro?

Of course not.

But that point can be made simply by laying out the numbers for Haskins’ career.

In two seasons with Washington, he played in 16 games, compiling a Total QBR of 29.4 and threw 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The league QBR average (63.5) during that time was significantly greater, fueling legit questions as to how much longer would Haskins be playing in the NFL.

The struggles he went through as a player in the NFL, while important to mention, come nowhere close to serving as what defines Haskins prior to his death or how wildly successful he was at the college level.

He was a football player, for sure. But he was also a human being whose family, friends and ex-teammates, will miss him dearly.

Especially his younger sister Tamia whom he was extremely close to.“I love how he’s not afraid to show people that he loves me, and I do the same,” she said in a 2018 interview.
Brother. Son. Husband. Teammate. Great college quarterback. Not-so-great pro quarterback.

He was all those things, and they each on some level, deserve a place in the narrative of his life.

But determining what that placement looks like, needs to come from a place of empathy, a request that unfortunately is a lot easier said than done.

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