Yesterday, Deadspin published a piece implying that Henderson's off-the-court issues wouldn't be tolerated if he were black. This argument brings us back to the whole question of whether you can judge a book by its cover. The answer is yes and no. It's true that, on the surface, Henderson is a white basketball player who probably does get away with certain transgressions because he's Caucasian, however, as we mentioned before, drug usage tends to be something that gets swept under the rug, for the most part. The writer immediately points to Tyrann Mathieu's issues with drugs and compares them to Henderson's failed drug test and arrest for forgery. Now, it's not difficult to believe that there is some preferential treatment that comes with athletes of a certain caliber, especially when Mathieu's tests were administered within the NCAA and LSU while Henderson's was issued by his probation officer. The writer also fails to mention the fact that college football is a much bigger deal than college basketball, and LSU is a bigger deal than Utah, South Plains JuCo, Texas Tech, and Ole Miss combined.
Sometimes, a coach or even a program will turn a blind eye to a certain player's problems if it means that the school finds success in the given sport. This rule can apply to both Mathieu and Henderson. But, of course, we're on the outside looking in and we don't know what happens behind closed doors. When Honey Badger was finally let go by LSU, media outlets were reporting that the program let him go after repeatedly failing drug tests. How many failed tests does that entail? We'll probably never know. Yet, what we do know is that Mathieu entered rehab in August for marijuana "addiction." So, if someone's addicted to a drug, it's safe to assume that they've used it often, no? Since Mathieu was a finalist in the Heisman race, pulling in awards left and right, including the Chuck Bednarik Award for being the best defensive player in college football and 2011 SEC Championship Game MVP, as well as helping take the team to a National Championship Game against Alabama. All of this success equals money for the school and the better the athlete, the more willing the program is to turn a blind eye to it all.
Now, the writer also points to the absurdity of Henderson's actions in his attempt to buy weed with fake money. It was a stupid move on Marshall's part. Yet, we're just going to ignore the fact that Mathieu aligned himself with a former player who was intending to sell, only one month after getting kicked off the team for failing multiple drug tests. Yes, he was in an off-campus apartment at the time, but he had to realize that he was already in hot water and that there was a white hot light (no pun intended) directed at him. Then, the writer wonders if Henderson "would he have gotten another chance to play Division I ball" if he were black. How about this, would a black football player get a chance to compete in the NFL given his past bouts with marijuana? Most signs points towards a definite yes. And why's that? Because talent can sometimes serve as the greatest filter when analyzing an athlete. Think about it. In the 2012 NFL Draft, Justin Blackmon served a one-game suspension with Oklahoma State after a DUI, he still goes in the first round. What happened before he played a single game in the league? He was arrested again for, you guessed it, a DUI. But he's talented, and might we add, black.
It's not about race. It's about skills.
And when you look at his collegiate career, Henderson has more in common with every player, regardless of race. While the first thing people may notice is the four schools in four years, how many of those folks do their research before passing judgment? As it is with any player making the jump from high school to college, they want playing time immediately. Henderson received scholarship offers from accomplished programs like Notre Dame, Stanford and Gonzaga, but he went with Utah because, as a freshman, he felt that he would get minutes and be able to showcase his skills. Is it wrong for him to make that decision? No. Does it make him look selfish? Possibly. Would former players who were subjected to a collegiate career of bench-warming go to another school if they could do it all over again? Absolutely!
After one season, Henderson transferred to Texas Tech. His reason? "I want to be closer to home," Henderson said in a statement in April 2010. Deep down, as it is with many athletes, family is an important part of Henderson's life. Just look at the picture of Henderson with his grandfather, Lonnie, after winning the NJCAA national championship with South Plains Junior College. When the conflicts between himself and his parents were smoothed over, Marshall left immediately to be closer to them. If Henderson was the bad boy he's painted out to be, he would probably not give a damn about mending fences with his family after starting a life on his own at the University of Utah. In addition, prior to the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Marshall said, "I'm trying to get paid here soon because I'm tired of doing all this stuff for free. And this is where you make your money, the NCAA Tournament." On the surface, people probably see that statement stemming from a point of greed, but would you call any of the athletes who stay in college for one year before bolting greedy? Some, if not most people, will get a pass because they're simply trying to provide for their family. What makes Henderson any different? The message may have come off crass but the truth of the matter is that he wants to offer financial help for his family just like every other collegiate player that enters the draft.
Speaking of family, this same dynamic applies itself in the coach/player relationship which is sometimes the closest thing to a father/son relationship that an athlete can have. This is most likely why he chose to leave Texas Tech without playing a single minute. As NCAA rules stipulate, a transfer must sit out for a year before playing for their new school. Henderson did just that with the expectation that he would be coached by Pat Knight. Things didn't work out to plan and Knight was fired during the season Marshall sat out. With his plans going awry, Henderson transferred once again to JuCo South Plains College in Levelland, TX for one season before bolting again to a Division I program in Ole Miss. As you can tell, Henderson has been on the move often, but one thing has remained the same: his on-court antics.