So Derrick Rose once flashed gang signs in a smoky room. With his apology, it's now, officially, a "controversy," a term of art allowing media-types to avoid saying what the story's really about, which is essentially this: scary black people.
First of all, here's Rose's apology:
This photo of me was taken at a party I attended in Memphis while I was in school there, and was meant as a joke . . . a bad one, I now admit. I want to emphatically state, now and forever, that Derrick Rose is anti-gang, anti-drug, and anti-violence. I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with any gang and I can't speak loudly enough against gang violence, and the things that gangs represent.
In posing for this picture, I am guilty of being young, naive and of using extremely poor judgment. I sincerely apologize to all my fans for my mistake. I pride myself on being a good citizen, and role model, that young people can look up to and I want to urge all my young fans to stay away from gangs and gang-related activities.
Did anyone out there actually think Derrick Rose was or is in a gang? Or that he's some sort of Gangster Disciples emissary because he once threw their sign in front of a camera and because he's from ... the South Side? That he's endorsing a lifestyle? With a white player, it should go without saying, this would all be chalked up to nothing more sinister than youthful indiscretion. With Rose, however, some jittery people seemed to think there was cause for concern:
There's not really a lot to comment on this picture, other than it looks like there is a lot of smoke in that room, and to say that I hope that Rose isn't down with the gang lifestyle.
It's common knowledge that there's a very big gang structure in Chicago, particularly on the South Side where Rose grew up. ... Chicago and it's surrounding areas are a hotbed of gang activity. It's a huge, huge city, so that sort of thing happens. But it's also a circumstance of his upbringing that Rose would be associated at all with this sort of thing. It's scary and dangerous that Rose could at all be indebted to Chicago gangs, if it's true. But it's also a fact of his life that he really didn't have much choice.
It's also common knowledge that the South Side is home to a large black middle class and in many ways wouldn't be all that alien to anyone who grew up in, say, suburban Maryland, so let's please stop talking about the area as some lawless, monolithic Dodge City of the Midway. Gangs, however, have always had a special purchase on Americans' fears, and people prone to exoticizing them seem to suddenly forget they're woven into the fabric of certain neighborhoods — like the Englewood neighborhood where Rose was raised. That they are is an unfortunate state of affairs. But that Rose might show some familiarity with the culture of the place where he lived for nearly two decades shouldn't be shocking or scary.
Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose responds to photo controversy [Chicago Tribune]