Royce White playing for mental health awareness in TBT 2018


By: Ben Swanson | @bj_swanny

The former Iowa State star is on a mission

El Gran Gato. The Apex Predator. The Swiss-Army Knife.

When Royce White’s announcement that he would be joining the Hilton Magic Legends hit the Twitter-sphere, it carried more than just monikers. It came with a declaration.

“We coming for that money…the rest of y’all are in trouble.”

Following his commitment, I caught up with Royce in a conversation that started somewhere near basketball and ended up touching on artificial intelligence, patriotism, homeostatic wearables, and just about everything in between. Without context, these topics might seem far flung and hardly related, but the common thread for White is a conversation that has become conjoined with his name; mental health.

“It really is the civil rights movement of this generation,” said the former Iowa State star. “Every issue or debate we have can be related in some way or another to mental health and how we approach it.”

Drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 16th pick in the 2012 Draft, White, who was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, notably feuded with management over how the team, and league as a whole, approached mental health policy.

“It has always been about setting a valid standard when it comes to mental health,” said White. “I don’t know what that is or should be, but the first step in this discussion is to have all parties operating with honesty and trust. There’s an inherent distrust found all throughout a sports entertainment enterprise, or in any power dynamic, and we incentivize it. Not just mental health either, if a player sprains his ankle, there’s dynamics at play to make them hide that from trainers.”

“The goal for any organization that values its athletes should be to have standards in place that create the most optimally healthy athlete, physically and psychologically,” White continued. “I want to pose questions like what that looks like and how we can get there.”

Enter TBT. With White officially on the roster for the 2018 Hilton Magic Legends, he says he hopes playing in TBT will further the group’s mission of creating dialogue and forming the questions that need to be answered moving forward.



“For something as new to the social discussion as mental health, we still really don’t have a clear picture of the end goal or even what the questions and issues we face are, so that is where I hope to pose those questions and at least start to aim discussions,” said White. “For example, a discussion that has reached the forefront of sports is fan-player interaction, and so evaluating where mental health resides in that is important."

“Part of the draw of sports is that people can go to a game and disassociate from their lives, and relieve stress by cheering and yelling and carrying on, but when that is toxic and directed at athletes, where is the athlete’s chance to disassociate and do the same? Is it an overall net positive if that aggression a fan relieves from their system at a game would otherwise be spent on their families at home? People with mental health problems are more prone to addictions, are we enabling that by allowing them to have 10 beers at a game and be abusive? What is the effect on athletes’ health from subjecting themselves to that for 80 some nights a year? Is there something we can do during off days to counteract that damage?”

Does social media further remove that barrier for athletes between ‘on’ and ‘off’?

“Exactly,” said White. “I don’t know, the same way I don’t know what the optimally healthy athlete looks like, or what the perfect sports league for everyone involved looks like, but just because we don’t know what that end goal looks like doesn’t mean we can’t start correcting our path and find the goal as we go.”

In terms of an end goal for White’s personal career, the answer is clearer.

“With the progress being made and questions being cleared up around mental health policy in the NBA, it’s time I’m back in the league I belong in,” said White. To echo White’s confirmation video again, the lion returns. But first, a run at $2 million this summer.

“Seeing the group of guys we’re putting together, we’re going to be tough. We’re going to be real tough.”