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Empathy and Fandom

With a second suspension for Delonte West in a short time frame, Dallas fans need to step back and avoid passing judgement.

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Thursday morning Mavericks management announced that Delonte West had been suspended for the second time this pre-season for "conduct detrimental to the team". The first reaction from most people was simply "Again? Really?".

Given that we still have no idea what West did exactly to prompt the first suspension, a second suspension has resulted in all sorts of speculation and reaction in a really short period of time. On my twitter feed it ranged from "West really needs to get it together" to "Dallas has no idea how to handle players with mental health issues" and everything else in between. Speculation and commentary on this very site has been generally harsh of West, despite not knowing the specifics. Let me be clear: we will probably never know what has caused these suspensions. Dallas runs a right ship and as fans we rarely hear things unless we are meant to. West talking to Tim McMahon today is probably ill advised and will only serve to make a challenging situation worse.

I also recommend having some empathy for Delonte. If you are like me, you may not have much experience in dealing with anyone who has any sort of mental health concerns. It's simply something we don't talk about much or have much respect for today in America. I'm trying to learn more and empathize as I learn that more of my friends and colleagues deal with mental health issues on a day to day basis. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or personality disorders are much more common than we realize; millions of people have been diagnosed the as more doctors come to understand about the human mind.

I'm of the opinion that players like West, Royce White, and Ron Artest are to be commended for their honest in dealing with something that most of us cannot understand. Being a professional in the public eye while dealing with chemical and emotional imbalances must be incredibly hard. Delonte in particular has been very open about his battle with mental wellness since his arrest in 2009 in Washington, DC. That kind of openness deserves respect and understanding.

We so often look at these players only through the lens of how they effect our favorite team. I understand not liking West's style of play, but we should do our best to not let his issues affect our thoughts on him as a player. And its perfectly legitimate to wonder how Delonte West's issues affect the cohesion of the Dallas locker room. But at the moment he is hardly the only source of concern, so to suggest that giving up on him now would somehow benefit the team is premature. We need to be patient. We need to be understanding. I also think we need to give Delonte West the benefit of the doubt unless he proves, like Lamar Odom did last season, that he doesn't deserve our loyalty.

I'm sure we'll find out more in the coming hours and days. But I believe in Delonte West. I think you should too.