Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose Responds to Photo Controversy

Dan McGrath and David Heinzmann, Chicago Tribune, June 12, 2009

After a standout debut season in which he was voted NBA Rookie of the Year, Derrick Rose’s off-season encountered more turbulence Thursday.

Weeks after he was linked to allegations of academic fraud at the University of Memphis, the Bulls’ star guard issued a statement declaring his vehement opposition to gangs in response to a photo posted on the Internet that showed him flashing gang signs at a party in Memphis during his freshman year there.

“I want to emphatically state, now and forever, that Derrick Rose is anti-gang, anti-drug and anti-violence,” Rose said in the statement released through the Bulls. “I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with any gang, and I can’t speak loudly enough against gang violence and the things that gangs represent.”

Earlier Thursday, a Bulls spokesman said the team was aware of the photo but was not concerned, as gang affiliation and behavior didn’t square with the Rose the Bulls know.

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Rose grew up in Chicago’s violent and gang-ridden Englewood neighborhood. The undated photo shows him seated and displaying the “pitchforks” sign of the Gangster Disciples Nation. A young man identified as Memphis teammate Antonio Anderson is standing behind Rose, smiling and flashing different gang signs, according to a police source.

“This photo was taken at a party I attended in Memphis while I was in school there, and was meant as a joke . . . a bad one, I now admit,” Rose’s statement said. “In posing for this picture, I am guilty of being young, naive and of using extremely poor judgment. I sincerely apologize to all my fans for my mistake.”

The Gangster Disciples, a large criminal organization with tens of thousands of members, are deeply involved in Chicago’s violent narcotics trade. Gangster Disciples long have been the predominant gang in the Englewood neighborhood.

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The incident comes on the heels of another off-court controversy surrounding Rose. The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal broke a story last month stating the NCAA alleged a stand-in took an SAT test for a student who played for Memphis during the 2007-08 season. Several media outlets reported that player to be Rose.

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Several media outlets subsequently reported that Rose had a grade changed from a D to a C during his senior season at Simeon to help ensure his college eligibility.

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Irv Rein, a Northwestern communication studies professor whose book, “The Elusive Fan,” examines fan cultivation and retention, believes Rose is “next in line” behind LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade as a marketing star.

“Short-term, there might be some effect, but long-term I don’t think so,” Rein said. “He has a good American story–up from the ghetto. He has a nice smile. And he’s a hell of a player.”

Rose

Derrick Rose “makes a joke.”

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