Let Tyler Cook: Why The Rookie’s Braids Are Much Ado About Nothing

With the 13th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Miami HEAT selected… Tyler Herro. Remember this moment, HEAT fans? I sure did. It was unexpected, as I had only known about this kid in passing while combing YouTube for potential draftees. I won’t lie.

No one I knew expected him to be drafted by the HEAT in the Lottery, and even less people expected to see him walk up to shake NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s hand in the outfit that he had on that night.

Drip. That’s the word that came flowing out when we saw him in that outfit. That’s what #NBATwitter suddenly added to its vocabulary. From the moment he was drafted, Herro turned heads, and this would extend to his play on the court.

A quick YouTube search will find that Herro always seemed to be a confident, outsized personality on the basketball court. We remember his silencing of a Wisconsin high school crowd shortly after committing to Kentucky.

And then the regular season started. Rookies are prone to inconsistent play from time to time, but Herro let the world know who he was on multiple occasions, with impressive scoring outputs, clutch play, and a refusal to back down from anyone.

We remember this well, HEAT Nation.

Now that play has been suspended due to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, we are all looking for some means of entertainment while staying inside and practicing social distancing like smart, prudent citizens.

It wouldn’t be long before Miami’s rookie would turn up again, and so he did, first with some impressive social media shot-shooting (shooters will continue to shoot, right?) and then a certain hairstyle that would apparently set #NBATwitter ablaze.

That’s right, Wisconsin’s very own Tyler Herro now has braids. Is this really an issue? It would seem as such to some, believing that Herro is pretending to be something he’s not, acting “Black” when he’s really white, and so on.

Let’s slow down. It’s very easy to throw around terms like culture vulture, cultural misappropriation, and so on. We see it happen all the time with Black people. We wear something and are crucified for it, and some white celebrity goes on vacation for a week and comes back with a new fashion style that’s amazing. Yes, it’s maddening.

But here’s the truth: Tyler Herro is doing nothing wrong. Braided hair is a hairstyle. Black (and other) men have worn it for years, and while reactions have been mixed depending on who you ask, we are no longer in the late-90s when Allen Iverson was deemed controversial for cornrows.

There’s no safer place than sports to wear differing hairstyles. This isn’t like a white woman in Hollywood wearing braided hair and being celebrated for innovation while Black women have been wearing it (and being disrespected) for millennia. We know the history. If not, read something.

Tyler Herro isn’t pretending to be someone he isn’t. It’s easy for those to dismiss or attack the HEAT rookie for his behavior, especially when they don’t actually know who he is. Isn’t that what social media is famous for, after all?

How someone behaves isn’t so much of an issues as whether or not they’re putting on a cultural mask that never belong to them in the first place. Remember Jason “White Chocolate” Williams?

He was who he was, the same way Herro is who he is. We’re not talking about a white person attempting to pass as Black in a world like this. We already have real examples of that in this world. Rachel Dolezal, anyone?

Another note: did we suddenly forget that Herro happens to be on a roster that is predominantly Black? Did we forget that he happens to share a locker room with two players that are well known for their toughness and unapologetic Blackness in Jimmy Butler and Mr. 305 himself, Udonis Haslem?

If Udonis Haslem considers him certified, what’s the issue? In fact, here’s what Butler had to say about Herro just the other day during a SLAM Magazine photoshoot.

Bottom Line: Tyler Herro is who he is. It’s clear that he’s being himself and not worrying about what other people think about him. If Jimmy and UD are fine with him, who are we, spectators who view him from afar, to act like we know? Rest assured, if Herro ever steps out of line, this team will let him know.

In the meantime, let Tyler cook, people. We’ve got other things to worry about.

Stay safe and INSIDE, people.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Boca Raton, Ricky J. Marc, J.D., M.S. is an alumnus of the Obama White House and Cornell Paris Institute, a former Legislative Aide with both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, and a graduate of St. Thomas University with a Juris Doctor and Master of Science in Sports Administration.

Ricky currently resides in Paris, France, is the host of the The RJM Experience (available everywhere podcasts are found), and is the co-host of the upcoming STICK TO SPORTS: A Sports Podcast (That Isn’t) series.

Follow him on Twitter @RickyJMarc.

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