This is a simple point I’m going to make, so I’ll be brief with it. But it’s an important one, I think, so I’m not leaving it unsaid anymore.
Over the weekend, I saw numerous blog and social media posts mocking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s manner of speaking in press interviews. It immediately pissed me off, even before I did any digging into MKG’s background.
First, it pissed me off because I’d like to know how many of the jackwagons doing the mocking would have been experts in dealing with the press…as college freshmen. My guess is probably not many of them. I sure wouldn’t have been.
Second, as soon as I saw MKG struggling to put together expansive answers, it seemed likely that he may suffer from a speaking issue. Of course, unlike you or I who can work through any speech disorder away from the limelight of cameras and microphones shoved in our faces, Kidd-Gilchrist has to do so in front of the sports world, with any misstep sure to be picked apart by bloggers like yours truly who want to get a quick viral post out.
Sure enough, Kidd-Gilchrist does, in fact, struggle with a speaking disorder. From Pat Forde’s December 31st article “Kentucky’s Kidd-Gilchrist comes of age in slugfest”:
If this was going to be a hard-knocking game, that was fine with MKG. He is a magna cum laude graduate of the school of hard knocks.
He has worked hard to overcome a childhood stutter. He grew up without a father, who was killed when Michael was 2 years old. His uncle, Darrin Kidd, died on the day Michael was going to sign his letter-of-intent to Kentucky; months later, he added “Kidd” to his name.
“I struggled,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
His constant companion during the struggle was his mother, Cindy Richardson. When she wound up in the hospital before Christmas with an undisclosed ailment, Michael went to be with her. He spent one night with her in the hospital, “crying my eyes out.” He said he didn’t want to leave her and return to Lexington, but he did after Christmas.
Cindy Richardson was released from the hospital and actually made it to Rupp on Saturday afternoon for the game. Friday night, Michael again spent the night with her.
“She’s the world to me,” he said.
As someone who had a bad lisp when I was young, and had to spend several years in speech therapy to overcome it, I’ve always sympathized with people who have struggled to speak. Imagine having words and sentences neatly lined up in your head but then not being able to say them, or saying them in a way that sounds funny to others. It’s tough. Certainly it’s not something that should be mocked, and this is doubly true when the guy is a college freshman trying to deal with the most attention he’s ever received in his life – not exactly the easiest stage on which to beat an issue with a stutter.
Instead of mocking how Michael Kidd-Gilchrist talks, try actually listening to what he says, in this case about teammate Anthony Davis, and appreciating the humility of it. And with the context of knowing he deals with a stutter, appreciate how calm and composed he is.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should be celebrated for being a great example to young people about how to overcome tough upbringings and how to deal with issues like a stutter. Look at him now. He’s the driving force, the heart and soul, of a team that’s in the Final Four. MKG getting mocked for struggling to speak is the sports world at its absolute worst.
I have no issue mocking athletes or coaches for saying things that arrogant or that totally lack self-awareness. Even bonehead decisions or bloopers on the field, made by guys who are or will be making millions, can be perfectly ripe for mockery and lampooning.
But a college freshman who plays basketball with as much heart as anyone I’ve ever seen, and who by all accounts is a great, humble kid, and who we force to subject himself to the media whether he wants to or not, should not have to worry about his issue with a stutter being fodder for mockery and laughter. It’s just mean. And totally uncalled for.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should be praised, for what he’s done on the court this year and for overcoming so many struggles off of it. Anyone who chooses to stand on the other side of the discussion should be ashamed of themselves.
It’s not every day that an IU fan actually root for anyone who wears a Kentucky jersey. It takes a special person and player to do that. MKG has won me over with his heart, humility, and courage – both on and off the court.
Update: One of the sites that posted the above video with a mocking tone updated its post to reflect the reality of MKG’s struggles. I get them credit for doing the right thing.