As the years have gone by, and more and more has been learned about head injuries, the more serious everyone has gotten about them. Whether in assessing them, treating them or looking to avoid them altogether, the stigma around head injuries has changed dramatically, particularly in recent years.
But it hasn’t been wholesale changes.
When Anthony Davis exited Wednesday’s game after taking an elbow to the head from Kevon Looney, it was clear he was not 100%. Needing to be helped to the back and eventually requiring a wheelchair to get to the locker room also indicated how the severity of this injury.
The responsible conversation that should have followed would be one centered on ensuring the Lakers and Davis were treating the injury seriously. Instead, almost immediately after it happened, the conversation from major media networks has been nothing short of embarrassing.
First, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, two figures riddled with jealousy and pettiness when it comes to modern players, couldn’t stop laughing at Davis needing a wheelchair with a towel over his head to get back to the locker room. You can’t find the video on TNT’s social media because they deleted it, an admission of guilt in its own right.
Shaq and Charles Barkley can’t stop laughing at Anthony Davis for leaving game in a wheel chair with a head injury pic.twitter.com/yQhWmcbxCE— Gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 11, 2023
For years, Barkley and Shaq have been two of the most disingenuous critics of Davis even when he’s healthy. And they’ve never strayed away from taking shots at him the moment he’s injured with Wednesday being their newest low point.
But you could almost make an argument that they didn't realize the severity of the injury in the moment considering it was so soon after the game. It wouldn’t be a good argument nor would it be one I could buy, but you could argue it!
What was inarguable is how gross Stephen A. Smith and Jay Williams handled the topic some 12 hours after the game on Thursday morning’s First Take. Again, you won’t find this on their Twitter account because, again, even they know it’s indefensible.
As ignorant of a discussion as I’ve ever seen and only @WindhorstESPN keeps his credibility here with “seen concussions with less”. Can’t wait for @FirstTake to do a segment on “seat belts” or “smoking” next since they are operating in 1975 still. pic.twitter.com/YcGuQRhQOo— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) May 11, 2023
At least in this situation, Smith offered an apology on Twitter hours later. Do I think he actually believes anything he says? Not really. It wreaks of the “sorry you were offended” tone we often see and is not addressing the actual seriousness of the discussion.
Blow back is Blow back. Comes with the territory, peeps. I was in no way minimizing the seriousness of a concussion. I was questioning whether Anthony Davis really had one, considering the play I saw & other hits I’ve seen him absorb. But, bottom line, it was wrong for me to do.…— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) May 11, 2023
Minimizing head injuries like these two very prominent shows have done is so dangerous. The stigma around head injuries is one that needs to be broken down and torn away. Players should not be shaking it off or playing through it when it comes to concussions. There are very serious real-life consequences that come with brain injuries.
Laughing at the injury? Debating if he even was injured? Indefensible and alarming. If we’re trying to grow awareness for how serious these injuries are for generations to come, having the two major networks that carry the game openly questioning or mocking the injury is so counter-productive to everything people like Taylor Twellman are trying to do.
Davis should not be criticized. In some regards, he and the Lakers staff deserve some kudos for not having him just play through it. They took the right steps to ensure he was healthy and not concussed, and it appears he may be ready for Game 6 as a result.
Shaq, Chuck, and Stephen A. all need to do a lot more than offering half-hearted apologies encouraged by PR teams. They have a far greater responsibility in all of this, and how they’ve handled this situation has been embarrassing.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.