How black men are portrayed in media is central idea of ‘Pooh: The Derrick Rose story’

NORTHBROOK, IL - APRIL 22: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls speaks to reporters following the press conference where he was awarded the Eddie Gottlieb trophy presented to the T-Mobile NBA Rookie of the Year on April 22, 2009 at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel in Northbrook, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2008 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
NORTHBROOK, IL - APRIL 22: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls speaks to reporters following the press conference where he was awarded the Eddie Gottlieb trophy presented to the T-Mobile NBA Rookie of the Year on April 22, 2009 at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel in Northbrook, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2008 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images) /

“Pooh: The Derrick Rose Story” may have premiered more than a month ago, but the discussions the documentary evokes of the way black men are portrayed in media were not for naught.

Let’s take a close look at “Pooh: The Derrick Rose Story” and how black men, like Derrick Rose, are portrayed in media.

Rose, former Chicago Bulls point guard, is no stranger to the media’s spotlight. So, when the news broke that Rose’s documentary was gearing up for an April release, it shook the Twitter-verse in more ways than one.

Directed and written by Scott Diener, “Pooh: The Derrick Rose Story” shares a personal account detailing the ascendence of the former MVP to where he is today.

The documentary’s tone is set from the beginning, with the narrative unfolding the way Rose sees the world around him.

"“I want it to be real; I want it to be authentic; I want people to feel it; I want it to touch your f****** soul,” Rose said."

Growing up in Englewood, Rose faced adverse circumstances. Men of color often get the sense they are the target of police officers, regardless of their arrest or prosecution history. This feeling held true for Rose as the documentary shows.

According to the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Chicago Police data, between 2001 and 2016 there were 4,282 reported shootings in the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood.

Rose made mention in the film of the tension between the police and residents of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

"“You always have that thought in your mind that today might be that day,” Rose said."

In the film, Rose is seen doing his best to stay clear of trouble. Rose saw how much his mother struggled to make ends meet and it motivated him and his dream of playing in the league.

Rose doesn’t spend a lot of time ruminating in the film about growing up largely without his father, offering a vague recollection of a moment in which his father gave him a toy truck as a gift.

The media so often paints negative images of young people who grow up fatherless, which isn’t always warranted.

In the film, it becomes apparent that Rose refused to let circumstances control the trajectory of his life’s story. Basketball proved to be a great outlet for Rose as he grew older. In fact, many in the film would describe the way he moved and approached the game as “different.”

Rose’s ultimate goal was to play the game on the biggest stage. The problem was that the NBA changed its rules preventing athletes from transitioning to the league immediately out of high school. Rose believed his age stirred a lot of the arguments between him and his mother as he grew older.

Still, Rose remained firm in his belief that hard work pays off as the film shows.

After graduating from high school, Rose decided to play one season for the University of Memphis in hopes of making his dream a reality, declaring for the NBA Draft after his freshman year.

On June 26, 2008, the stars aligned. Rose was drafted No. 1 overall by the Chicago Bulls. Many viewed Rose as a light of hope for the Bulls and the City of Chicago.

"“This is a dream come true to be a Chicago Bull, and I’m happy that the Bulls picked me,” Rose said."

Playing in Chicago, you get the sense in the film that Rose believed the city was a tale of two halves, one longing for championships, another questioning if fame and money trumps all. That’s a lot of pressure for any person to face.

Rose would go on to win Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in his first three seasons, a feat that’s never been accomplished by someone his age. As the film indicates, the public’s perception of Rose depicted him at the time as the face of the franchise.

"“He was doing things that no other point guard was doing,” said Joakim Noah, a former teammate of Derrick Rose. He said the way Rose would find his way to the rim, “bigs would get out the way because they didn’t want to get posterized. I saw that so many times.”"

Almost as quickly as he ascended to the top of the league, things took a turn for the worse when Rose tore his left ACL. The Bulls organization remained hopeful he would return to action ready to play.

The media’s depiction of Rose wasn’t always on point.

As headlines displayed in the documentary show, things started to become more polarized as many questioned if and when Rose was ready to return to the court.

It didn’t help the way news articles and blogs on this topic spread in the age of online/social media. Some headlines went as far as stating, “The Derrick Rose drama has reached its breaking point” and “As Chicago’s Wait for Rose continues, weight grows heavier.

The unfairness exhibited toward Rose and how he approached his injury went beyond the headlines at times making matters worse.

In the body of the article “Bulls star standing out for not toughing it out,” there is a reference to the knee injury sustained by Iman Shumpert during the same time period, suggesting that Rose should get off his pedestal and stop conjuring “the standard NBA superstar stereotype that it’s all about him.”

As that article states, Shumpert recovered in time to make a mid-January return the following season, and people started questioning what Rose was doing in rehabilitation if he needed more time.

Rose was made to look like it shouldn’t take long for him to recover from injury, as if everyone heals at the same pace.

At the same time, no one article created more issue for Rose than the ESPN story that detailed how doctors had medically cleared him to play.

Around that time, the sports scene was reeling over Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and how he came back from an ACL tear. Seeing an athlete in a contact sport, like football, making a quick return to the field made many people question Rose’s intentions and his desire to get back to work.

As the documentary indicates, Rose’s camp never fully addressed the issue Rose was experiencing during the rehabilitation that prevented him from thinking he could play without risking injury. Many people will speculate the way Rose played the game would require him to change his approach. Early on, Rose attacked the opposing team’s defenses with a ton of explosiveness off the dribble and athleticism not even paralleled by Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.

John Paxson, Chicago Bulls Vice President of Basketball Operations, spoke in the film of how the Chicago Bulls organization made a mistake in how it handled Rose’s situation. It didn’t help the way they left the door open to the possibility Rose would return a short time later in the postseason.

Former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said it best when he stated in the film:

"“You could be medically cleared, but until the player feels he’s ready to play, you have to trust the player.”"

Despite the noise surrounding Rose, it is not abnormal for an athlete to take a year or longer to rehabilitate a torn ACL as the documentary indicates.

"“This narrative that created that Derrick could come back and play and help them in the playoffs was ludicrous,” said Sam Smith, an NBA writer, covering the Chicago Bulls since 1984. “Bernard King had the first serious ACL. He was the first player to come back from an ACL surgery to make an All-Star team. He was out two years. He came back in two years. To say that Derrick can come back in 9 or 10 or 11 months and then walk in a playoff atmosphere where you got to play at a high level, that’s nuts.”"

In the film, Rose admits he did not want to deal with the narrative surrounding his readiness to make a comeback. Around that time, the people surrounding Rose were not taking requests to speak with the media. Not to forget to mention Adidas filmed an inspirational promotional campaign dubbed, “The Return” when Rose was still trying to rehabilitate his left knee.

As the film shows, Rose was made to look like the villain for signing a maximum-length contract extension with the Bulls and a long-term shoe deal with Adidas. Men of color are so often demonized without reason in the media.

Rose eventually returned to the Bulls’ lineup only to suffer a right MCL tear. The noise surrounding the Bulls organization and Rose grew louder as time went on. As the film indicates, the media built up false narratives trying to tear Rose down in an effort to boost ratings, generate clicks and sell newspapers.

"“Unfortunately, the way my business works sometimes is other narratives take the place of your story,” said Laurence Holmes, a host for 670 The Score. “Usually, a great rule in propaganda is the first person to speak, they get to control the narrative, but no one really heard from Derrick throughout his time and it caused a lot of bruising to his public perception by Bulls fans.”"

As the documentary indicates, it was a Chicago sports Civil War at the time.

"“So many black people in Chicago felt like Rose was being unfairly mistreated by a largely white media, and fans–the season tickets holders of Chicago–clearly are a different demographic,” said Vincent Goodwill, senior NBA writer for Yahoo Sports. “They looked at the dollar signs, and they looked why aren’t you playing, and they’re looking at the media reports.”"

When Rose did get back to playing, it was clear he wasn’t the exact same high-flying player, which makes many wonder what could have been if the Chicago Bulls organization had done the right thing to make sure he was ready. But, of course, nobody wanted to read that headline. It doesn’t make money.

Rose is more revealing in the documentary than most men are willing to admit. It gets to the point where Rose is tearing up to hearing the news that he’s been traded to the New York Knicks. That emotion opens the viewers’ eyes to another side of Rose.

"“Anytime you see me cry or show emotion like that, it comes from a place of appreciation of knowing where I came from,” Rose said."

In the film, Rose admits he is not sure how his true message got lost in translation. Many people believe Rose was unfairly treated by the media.

Still, Rose refuses to point blame as the film shows.

"“Chicago made me who I am, and getting drafted by the Bulls was a dream come true,” Rose said. “I’ve carried Chicago with me everywhere I’ve gone. I always will.”"

After leaving the Knicks, Rose bounced around the league a bit from one team to another. Rose has found some stability playing most recently with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

By the film’s end, it is clear Rose has no hard feelings for the Chicago Bulls organization, the fans or the media. As such, it becomes apparent that Rose is not the stereotypical “angry black man” that is so often depicted in media.

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This is what makes “Pooh: The Derrick Rose Story” and its depiction of black men work as well as it does.