Forget for a moment that Marshall Henderson tweeted words early Monday and presented himself as a homophobe, and disregard, if you can, that his subsequent explanation for publicly calling the image of Michael Sam kissing another man "nasty ass sh*t" was that he was helping a friend with some sort of weird social experiment.
Henderson's beliefs and motivation for expressing them are beside the point for the purposes of this column, because this isn't about what a criminal turned Division I basketball player does or does not think of the first openly gay man to be ever be drafted by an NFL franchise. This column is about the level of stupidity it requires for a person to tweet wildly controversial remarks upon leaving college and embarking on a quest to earn a paycheck somewhere, and that's why this entire episode should serve as a teaching tool for any and all aspiring professional athletes ... and professionals in general.
Don't kill yourself with public displays of ignorance.
Don't give companies any extra reasons to stay away from you.
Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality or televised acts of affection, it's quite clear, at this point, that taking a stand against equal treatment and rights is unpopular with the majority of reasonable Americans and almost all big businesses. I mean, just over the weekend, the Miami Dolphins fined and suspended defensive back Don Jones because he tweeted that Sam's kiss, moments after the Rams selected Sam on Saturday, was "horrible." And surely you've heard how Donald Sterling is on the verge of losing the Los Angeles Clippers because of insensitive remarks caught on tape.
So there's precedent here at all levels.
Felons can be tolerated.
So can drug addicts and alcoholics and generally flawed people.
But folks who show themselves as bigots will be shouted down and pushed aside quickly in this country in the year 2014, and yet there was Henderson, a little more than a month before the NBA Draft, highlighting himself as a homophobe for all the world to see.
That Henderson later rationalized the tweets as "research" doesn't matter.
Whether you buy the rationalization or not matters even less.
The point here is simple: By the time Henderson tried to explain his tweet, the damage was done. Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork had already publicly expressed "disappointment" in who has been, for at least the past 18 months, the school's most recognizable athlete, and every major news outlet in the country had already quoted the insensitive remarks. There never was going to be a way for Henderson to unring that bell, even if the tweet genuinely doesn't reflect his beliefs. And so he's either a homophobe or an idiot, and possibly both.
Either way, it's sad.
I enjoyed watching Henderson play at Ole Miss and found him to be a fascinating personality, and though I rarely watch European competitions or D-League games, I might, I guess, if he were involved. And he might still be involved. Who can tell for sure? All I know is that the NBA has long been out of the question for lots of reasons, and that some doors that might've otherwise been open will now certainly close because of the negative publicity Henderson would bring, thanks to the negative publicity he created Monday.
His documented drug problems are one thing.
His criminal background is another.
In this country, those issues are confronted daily, and the average citizen is typically willing to give such offenders second and third chances, if necessary. But it can be difficult to put insensitive views in your past once those views have been expressed publicly, and regardless of whether those views were expressed in a serious manner or for some other dumb reason. Whether Marshall Henderson grasped as much before Monday, I have no idea. But he would've been wise to research that reality before he started researching anything else.