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Chris Andersen has gone through so much in one lifetime, that an attempt to skim his life story down to just the major events still takes up a considerable amount of space:
Andersen grew up in an orphanage in Texas, and realized at a young age that he had natural athleticism that was difficult to match. After dropping out from the University of Houston, he attended Blinn College, eventually finding his way into the CBL. After getting picked up by the Denver Nuggets in 2001, he developed the persona “Birdman” for his high flying antics. A prolific shot blocker and dunker, he quickly became a fan favorite. While he is mostly known for having a body covered in tattoos and his two year-long suspension from the NBA for violating the league’s substance abuse policy (mostly for meth and cocaine), he is a very charitable person, purchasing tickets and distributing them to less fortunate families in the Denver area. Yet in spite of his numerous battles with narcotics, he’s thought of as a nice guy who has a problem, and who wouldn’t hurt anybody.
That’s all changed now.
On Thursday, police searched and confiscated many items from Andersen’s Larkspur, CO home, which he shares with a few roommates. The search was part of an investigation taking place in California, which was cooperating with Douglas County’s Sheriff Internet Crimes Against Children Unit.
That last sentence, whether he or his roommates are found guilty of anything, essentially ended Andersen’s career.
No arrest warrants have been issued thus far, and Andersen has fully cooperated with the authorities. The investigation will most likely continue for weeks, possibly even months, as investigators go over hard drives, thumb drives and whatever other property they seized from Andersen’s residence. Andersen has already been “excused indefinitely” by the team during the investigation, but he hasn’t figured into the young Nuggets plans at all this season, not seeing game action since March 25th.
The American public will forgive a celebrity for pretty much any mishap: drunk driving, drug abuse, cheating on a spouse or even saying a racial/homophobic slur. If that person is beloved by the adoring public, sometimes even a simple apology will suffice. Unless a person goes on numerous rants, generally acting like a lunatic and is repeatedly heard using abusive language to others around him, we as a collective tend to either forgive or forget the star – unless that person is Mel Gibson, who’s been reduced to working with a friggin puppet for God’s sake. Unfortunately over the years we seem to have grown to accept a celebrity hitting a woman (looking at all you idiotic Chris Brown fans) as long as “the woman seems cool” about it later (when we disregard all we know about the mindset of abused women, by the way, and anyone pointing to Rihanna following Brown on Twitter as a reason to forget everything needs to be beaten with a sack of potatoes) or if he’s “sorry enough”, whatever the hell that means.
One thing the public will never, ever forgive – and especially never forget – is the abuse of a child. Even if the abuse is only alleged, and that person is eventually cleared, there will always be that stigma or a cloud of suspicion surrounding the individual for as long as he or she remains in the public’s eye, and even long after they leave the public arena.
Ask some people what they remember about Michael Jackson and - depending on their age - they’ll either say something about his music, or they’ll talk about the creepy interviews and how he allegedly acted when children were involved.
That’s a man who created some of the most popular and beloved music in history, and now he’s been reduced to a running joke. What will these types of allegations do to a guy who to non-sports enthusiasts is just a tatted up journeyman player with a history of drug abuse?
On Twitter Thursday night, the jokes were abundant; references to “Toddlers and Tiaras” on TLC, prom nights, and jokes about flights to Thailand were everywhere. Facts are for those who wait, but in a world where, as Ricky Bobby’s father said “If you’re not first, you’re last”, who has time for due process?
This could all blow over, and in a few weeks Andersen and his roommates could be cleared of any wrong doing. It doesn’t matter. This will now follow him wherever he goes, regardless of the outcome of the investigation. His chances of find another gig in a new city – Denver probably won’t want him back as this story has taken some focus off their team’s series against the Lakers – are slim at best.
If it’s found that his roommates did download or distribute child pornography? He’s done. Even if he knew nothing about it, the majority of the public will see him as someone that lived with a child abuser. Couple that with his past and – fairly or unfairly – teams won’t want to take the PR hit, regardless of what they believe he brings to the court.
If it turns out that he’s the focus of this investigation, and is found to have taken part of some illegal activity – illegal activity involving the exploitation of children? Then God have mercy on him, because he surely won’t find any of that down here.
This isn’t just a story about a basketball player running afoul of the law. Outside of Andersen and former Yankee Rusty Torres, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a professional athlete having to deal with these types of allegations. At this point, it becomes bigger than Andersen, and much bigger than what’s left of his career.
Let’s just hope justice is served, whether it involves arrests being made in Larkspur or not.
You pray that this is the last time you hear a story like this. Unfortunately, we all know better.