It’s a natural inclination when an athlete issues a statement regarding personal problems to want to believe him. Not just to want to believe him, but to root for him to face down those problems, conquer those problems and move on with his life inside and outside of sports.
It’s a little more complicated than that in the case of Nick Emery at BYU.
His statement released Friday evening about withdrawing from school and the basketball team seemed as though it might have some elements of truth to it, but in a deceptive way. Some smart guy once said: “The half-truth is the most dangerous form of a lie because it can be defended by incontestable logic.”
Emery’s statement read: “I have decided to withdraw from BYU today. Unfortunately I am mentally not where I need to be in order to perform in basketball and in school this year. As it has been made known, I went through a divorce this year, and it has been really difficult for me. I have confidence that I will come back stronger and better. I have every intention on coming back to BYU and representing Cougar nation on the basketball floor. I thank everyone for their love and support, especially my teammates and the BYU administration that have been an incredible support system. Go Cougs!”
Yeah, Emery did go through a divorce, filed May 30 and finalized Oct. 3.
Divorce often is tough. But is that the likely reason Emery is withdrawing from school and basketball at this time? The rousing follow-up of pledging to “come back stronger and better” and “representing Cougar nation,” then thanking “everyone” for their love and support makes us all want to stand and applaud, to fire off a 21-gun salute to the young man in his courageous sojourn.
I wish the kid well in his personal affairs.
But I’m not buying it.
At no point in the statement does Emery mention the fact that the NCAA is investigating his relationship with a booster and the improper benefits he may have gained from that relationship, including the use of a car and various trips, as has been reported by The Tribune.
BYU began investigating Emery five months ago, when those allegations first arose, and subsequently sent its findings along to the NCAA, and now awaits the governing body’s decision. BYU being BYU, it is probable the school also examined Emery’s status with the honor code, adding that extra layer of perusal into the mix.
And now Emery says it is the divorce that sidelined him.
On Oct. 31, Emery sent out on social media a picture of himself and some of his teammates, uniformed and shooting basketballs at a hoop in the Marriott Center with fans cheering and waving their arms in the background, all stoked and ready for college ball. The caption read: “That time of year,” with a basketball emoji and a smiley face.
He seems stoked and ready for some ball, too.
And then, as the school awaits word on possible violations, a possible suspension and concludes investigations of its own ilk and manner on the kid, on the eve of the commencement of the regular season, he leaves school and the team, fighting the good personal fight, trying his best to overcome problems that a lot of humans try to overcome.
The plain suspicion and logic here is that there’s more to his withdrawal than he says, whether it’s the improprieties or the honor code. Nobody should care if it is the honor code, much in the way nobody should have cared when other BYU athletes slipped away from school and team for a year then returned to play another day, fully washed from BYU’s interpretation of moral indiscretion. If he’s leaving in the build and swell of the NCAA investigation, that’s another matter.
BYU coach Dave Rose added to the fervent worry for Emery, also ignoring the other issues in his statement: “Nick’s personal well-being is my No. 1 concern right now. He’s going through a very difficult time, and we’ve had a lot of discussions about what he needs to do to be able to move forward. We both feel like the best thing for him is to take time off before continuing with his basketball career. As coaches and his teammates, we want what is best for Nick, and we know he has a great family that will help him navigate this difficult time. We look forward to welcoming him back at BYU soon.”
Do we all have stupid written across our faces?
Or is it just compassion for a struggling 23-year-old?
Rose unquestioningly also is concerned about the welfare of his team, about results, about adverse consequences that could come to his program. There’s something more to this navigation of troubled waters than what is being offered officially here, and everybody, including Emery and Rose, knows it.
If that’s a partial-truth, it has a greater percentage and overall heft of veracity to it than the partial-truth being expressed in these statements, personal statements that are easy to root for but hard to believe.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.