We hold athletes to strange standards that we would never hold ourselves to. We demand that they put the needs of a fanbase before their own. We require them to consider the effect their decisions will have on strangers they’ve never met over the effect those decisions will have on their families. We assume that they care about the team colors and jersey designs just as much as we do.

In effect, because we are stuck rooting for our teams in perpetuity, we expect each athlete who plays for the team to be loyal to it and to us. We assume that the ideals and mantras we hear in Gatorade commercials and read in Nike ads are truthful and authentic and therefore athletes will live their lives accordingly. And when they don’t, by leaving for another team or demanding a change in the status quo, we see them as deficient and incorrect. They are disloyal. We thought they were better than that.

For example, take DeMar DeRozan. Selected ninth overall by the Toronto Raptors in 2009, he has since become the face of the franchise as a four-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA Team member, and the leader of the 2017-2018 squad that won the Eastern Conference regular-season crown (we won’t talk about the playoffs). He’s played his entire nine-year career in Toronto and was told this summer by Raptors officials, according to ESPN, that he would not be traded. He stayed loyal and, according to the rules of loyalty, he would be rewarded as such.

Not so much, because we now know that the Raptors are currently finalizing a deal to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs for a package that includes DeRozan.

According to ESPN, neither player is enthused about the deal. We know Leonard wanted to go to Los Angeles, and at the very least, had specific markets or franchises in mind. As for DeRozan, it would be fair to say he’s fairly pissed off.

“Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing… Soon you’ll understand… Don’t disturb…”

And DeRozan isn’t alone in his feelings that this was a backstab of epic proportions.

The thing is, on paper, it’s understandable why the Raptors would want to make the deal. DeRozen is an All-Star but Leonard is, if healthy, one of the best players in the NBA. But it all comes back to that notion of loyalty. DeMar was expected to have it for Toronto and their fanbase. He probably could have explored free agency or demanded a trade but he didn’t because of the arbitrary rules that exist. Not to mention the team sat him down and told them they’d be loyal to him.

But in the end, as always, the lesson is to take care of yourself. Heed the word of LeBron James and take your talents wherever you want, whenever you want, because at the end of the day no NBA team is going to lout our for you no matter how much loyalty you’ve given them. Loyalty is as fleeting as skill and talent. Don’t waste the latter because you’re worried about the former.

[ESPN]

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.