Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Commentary [Print without images]

Thursday, January 28, 2010
Apology needed, but not from Oden

By LZ Granderson
ESPN.com

Penis.

There, I said it. Not "thing" or "junk" or "stuff" or any other ridiculous euphemism we use to describe this particular area of the anatomy, as if it weren't part of the human body.

About half the people in the world have one, and that includes Greg Oden.

None of this is exactly breaking news, but for some reason, a good chunk of the country has been behaving as if the nude photos of the oft-injured Portland Trail Blazer that surfaced recently are a stop-the-presses issue. It's been on every sports blog the Internet offers up as well as sports talk radio and television shows from coast to coast, including ESPN.

Greg Oden
Why is Greg Oden the one apologizing for the pictures of him without that snazzy uniform?

The only thing more ridiculous than Oden's apologizing for taking the pictures are the folks who felt he needed to. As far as I can tell, he has nothing to apologize for -- and no, that isn't a thinly veiled size joke. Apparently, the photos were taken about a year and a half ago when he was flirting with his then-girlfriend; and if she is the one who began circulating them on the Internet, maybe there's some insight into why she is an ex-girlfriend.

The conversation shouldn't be about Oden's sexting. It should be about how classless some of us can be. Yes, this does qualify as another case in which technology exacerbates an athlete's poor decision. (See Michael Beasley, a small plastic bag and Twitter; or Michael Phelps, a house party and a camera phone.) But giving Oden all this grief because he's a professional athlete is a very superficial way at looking at this particular situation. He's 21 years old. Snicker at him if you want; even question the propriety of sending nude photos to someone. But we really should be asking what kind of person would leak those photos in the first place. We really should be questioning the propriety of posting them on the Internet. What kind of people use their blogs for that?

I haven't looked at the pictures. I do not believe they're any of my business. If Oden were doing porn instead of rehabbing his injury, OK, we can talk about it. If he were a political figure trying to pass an anti-sexting bill, then sure, post the photos as evidence of his hypocrisy. But this was supposed to be a private exchange between two consenting people.

I understand that Oden is a celebrity, and I suppose there's nothing inherently wrong with being curious about those photos. But has civility moved so far from our lives that apologies have to be issued for something like this, while the people responsible for allowing it to become a frenzy of salacious voyeurism are barely mentioned in the general conversation?

And even if the photos were leaked by a vindictive ex, why continue to circulate them? I don't expect everyone to agree with me on this, but personally, I don't have a problem with Oden for sending nude photos to a girlfriend. I do have a problem, though, with people who share photos that weren't intended for anyone else to see.

It seems we are constantly trying to hold professional athletes to a standard that we, as fans, are not willing to live by ourselves. We want athletes to be role models, but we skirt our own obligations to behave in the same way. Just because we aren't rich and famous doesn't mean our actions do not influence other people. Think there's too much smut out there? Then adhere to one of my favorite Mahatma Gandhi quotes: "Be the change you want to see in the world." If smut consumption goes down, smut production will follow.

Again, if Oden or the Cleveland Indians' Grady Sizemore -- whose sexting pics also were leaked recently -- were engaged in something grievously illegal, then yeah: Post the photos and rake the athletes across the coals. Me? I'd rather my 13-year-old son grow up to be the kind of person who playfully flirts with the person he's dating than be the kind of person who leaks private photos of a past lover out of spite or for money. Or the kind of person who re-posts the photos just so a blog might generate a few more hits.

Besides, Oden is just naked, and it's just a penis.

What's the big deal? As I said earlier, about half the people in the world have one.

If anyone should be apologizing, it should be us for making such a stink about something that doesn't affect our lives and was never our business in the first place.

LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at lzgranderson@yahoo.com.

MORE COMMENTARY »