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Media coverage of Isaiah Thomas’ family tragedy is a tragedy

The Boston Celtics were the talk of the East last week after outlasting the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top seed. The team was riding a wave of momentum — that undeniably came crashing to a sudden halt the day before the Celtic’s playoff opener when star guard Isaiah Thomas’ sister was killed in a car accident. Instead of overcoming the Chicago Bulls in Game One, the Celtics fell 106-102.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Celtics are supporting their fellow teammate. Coach Brad Stevens commented on the outpouring of support for Thomas, and stressed that decisions to play would be up to Thomas himself. While no funeral date has been set for Thomas’ sister, Chyna Thomas, Stevens has mentioned the Celtics’ plans to attend.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of all of this is the fact that media has used this player’s personal tragedy to discuss how this will affect the team’s playoffs performances, and instead of writing about the team coming together in a show of solidarity, love and support, they have used this tragedy solely to predict how Thomas himself will play. While I understand that athletes, just like celebrities, give up personal privacy when they step onto the court or the big screen, this complete lack of empathy from the media is undeniably frustrating.

Charles Barkley was adamant in the fact that he felt uncomfortable watching Thomas cry during pregame warmups one day after the death of his sister. Barkley’s comments were crude, emotionless and downright distasteful. But the most irritating comment Barkley made was the following: “I’m not feeling comfortable with him sitting on the sideline crying like that. That makes me uncomfortable. So that tells me he’s not in shape to play.”

What. The. Actual. Hell. Personally, I’d like to know just who Barkley is to decide whether someone who has experienced a very real personal tragedy is in the right mindset to play.

SB Nation summed things up pretty well with a quote from Lemony Snicket (the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events for those of you who have been living under a rock), “When someone is crying, of course, the noble thing to do is comfort them. But if someone is trying to hide their tears, it may also be noble to pretend you do not notice them.”

The media using Thomas’ personal tragedy to speculate how the Celtics will do in playoffs is downright disgusting. While I will acknowledge that there was an outpouring of support for Thomas on social media, the fact that people felt the need to speculate about how he would perform is upsetting.

The accident has become a backdrop for everything Thomas has done and will do upon setting foot on the court. It’s evident in the fact that we turn tragedies into events that athletes must conquer and overcome instead of giving them time to grieve. And that, in my opinion, is incredibly unfair to the player. But for many, there is the unspoken reality that sports come first and foremost. It’s one of the reasons why Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury wasn’t told of his dad’s death while he played against the Phoenix Suns.

And just like everything else in this messed up world, it’s sickening that people would rather have their players kept in the dark, or ignore their grief on the court, solely for the sake of their team winning. Because in this world, crying for your sister makes people uncomfortable, and winning is clearly more important than shedding tears.

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