The locker room is a haven, a safe place for athletes. It’s an exclusive, members-only club of sorts, and what happens there between teammates generally stays locked away. For the most part this is fine, and it’s definitely necessary for athletes in an age when every publication, website, and TV network wants to know their personal business.
Sometimes, though, this code of secrecy goes off the rails. This week, a video taken by D’Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers was released publicly, showing his teammate Nick Young talking about various flings he’s had with different women. Young is engaged to pop star Iggy Azalea, and the video release was the first she’d heard about his infidelity.
A man cheating on his fiancée is bad enough, but what followed has taken a horrible situation and made it exponentially worse. Russell claims the video was released without his consent, and he’s not sure how. It has caused significant tension among the Lakers. Russell broke the “bro code” and brought the world into the locker room, and it will be no small feat to undo that damage.
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If we could assume the “code” was to protect the privacy of a broken relationship it would be respectable, but that’s not what it is. When expressions of friendship and manhood mean covering up the misdeeds of another, especially from the one being wronged, it is neither friendship nor manhood—it is twisted cowardice.
This isn’t simply a matter of upholding a code; it’s a matter of a twisted sexual ethic, one that grants men the right to do whatever they want with whomever they want, regardless of the collateral damage.
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A real man—a brother, not a “bro”—wouldn’t air someone else’s dirty laundry, especially not through the tabloids. But a friend would say, “Tell her, or I will.” A friend would risk the friendship for the sake of what is right and out of respect to the woman. A friend would be willing to go face the uncomfortable and push for things to be made right, to uphold the real code to which all men should hold themselves.