Last week, Paul George and Reggie Jackson became the latest Los Angeles Clippers stars to speak out about the reality of mental health in sports and the black community.
This comes just a few months after John Wall revealed his own struggles amid battling with a long-term injury and losing both his mother and grandmother, while Robert Covington also spoke last season about prioritizing his mental wellbeing after falling into a dark place that caused him to nearly quit basketball and Nicolas Batum shared that he was “crying before games” on the Charlotte Hornets.
Now, speaking in an interview with Good Morning America this past week, George and Jackson have teamed up to throw their weight behind furthering those conversations, normalizing being able to share experiences and checking in with those around you.
“People view us as superheroes and celebrities or what not, but we all fight the same battles,” George said of mental health among athletes. “Everybody is expected to perform to the highest level. I tend to be in my head on most occasions when I’m having a lot of anxiety. I’m the person that reads the room and sits back, you know, analyzes a lot of things and it can hurt me at times.”
Jackson, when asked about it being taboo in the black community, added:
“Economically, demographically, historically, we already don’t have the resources and we already feel weaker than probably a lot of us are able to speak for. A lot of the time we don’t really know what we’re feeling, I think that’s why the numbers are tilted the way they are.”
It’s not the first time the pair have opened up about their own experiences with mental health struggles, after Jackson spoke of how much George helped him when he was also thinking about quitting basketball altogether prior to joining the Clippers, while PG shared his own battles during the NBA bubble.
“I couldn’t sleep, it just was a downward spiral that I was going through,” George said of his time in Orlando. “Every moment I felt like I was out there to prove something, I wasn’t OK. You know, I was able to get help and figure out a way to cope with it. It was a huge help hearing someone else’s perspective of my life.”
George and Jackson credited fellow NBA stars Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan with giving them the platform to speak out, and now the Clippers duo hope to make a positive difference, by doing something as simple as checking in with each other but also using their platforms to encourage others to do the same.
“A lot of our conversation is, ‘truly, how are you feeling? What’s your thoughts? What are you thinking?’ We are mind, body and spirit, so you gotta take care of all aspects and understand that, without having them all in sync, you really can’t move and feel well.”
“I think the more that we can just talk about it, the more that we can make it normal, normalize the situation. And I think people will be able to address it themselves.”