Vidal Massiah, former team Canada captain, owner of The Hoop Factory and director of the Northern Kings AAU program speaks out on the controversial Fifth Estate basketball documentary.
When I first heard the news about the airing of the CBC Fifth Estate “Fast Break” story, it came to no shock to me. It was something I have known was coming for the last six months, after I was contacted by a reporter to be a contributor to the story. I did not want to speak on camera about Ro Russell, and I still don’t want to talk about things I personally know to be true. I am not hear to change anyone’s opinion on this story. We are all entitled to our own views.
Despite what those may feel about me, Ro Russell, or AAU basketball, I don’t think there should be a backlash to the children that were brave enough to share their real life experiences. These are kids that have been through enough, and the last thing that they need is to be labeled a “snitch” or other names by their peers. This is their account of what’s happened, and we need to respect that. After all, none of us where there.
I have spoken to a lot of kids since the story aired, many of who i train, coach and mentor. Their opinions are disturbing to say the least. They honestly believe that what these kids have experienced,is simply part of the “grind” to be a successful basketball player in America. The players should have “sucked it up” to get where they want to be. Although things may never be perfect when chasing your dreams, the opinion that these kids shared is something that I will not endorse. Using basketball to further your education must always remain at the forefront of what this complicated basketball industry is. People are attacking Xavier and Braden for speaking out, and that is the only reason I decided to voice my opinion. Canada, there is no “grind” or “sucking it up” outside of taking care of your school work and working hard to improve your game that needs to take place to make it in America. This is simply not true,and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. This is the type of misinformation and mentality that needs to be addressed. The basketball issues are secondary,and I will get to those in a minute, but first please stop attacking our kids for speaking out!
I speak with parents, players, and coaches everyday and the basketball community in Canada with the majority of parents wanting their kids to secure a post secondary opportunity in America, our extremely misinformed. The information they have or have been given is many times wrong, half truths or lies. I really wish parents and players, but mostly the parents would do their research and get the very best information before making decisions. Ask for resumes, playing history, coaching experience references etc..Basketball in Canada has been around for years, but it is only in its infancy stages when you talk about building an industry. The players who are making it to the NBA are making it for the most part because the NBA invested into Canada.
They put a team in Toronto and made an American game, a Canadian reality for millions of Canadian kids. In other words, there was a shift in mentality. So there will be kids making it to the NBA from Canada for years to come. It is very important that as we move forward and build an industry, the foundation be solid! There needs to be standards and we need to do things with integrity. This is a direct shot at all the media outlets that want to cover basketball in Canada. Do so with no bias. Report the good and the bad so we are all held accountable. I do not think it is your job to only bring attention to the players who are so deserving of your stories and articles, but the more important job at this point is to ensure the games integrity is protected. I am sick of seeing videos and stories with information that is so wrong and inaccurate but yet it is still shared with the public.
Please do not post videos of kids who you know attend high school, but you say they are in the 8th grade at the request of their coach. If you ever took the time to speak to the player to see how he or she felt about it you may have thought twice. These are kids, they have a tough time as it is. Any attention brought to kids needs to be positive. I have been told by a media outlet with major influence in our developing market that he would not report certain stories because he needed access to a particular coaches players for features and stories. Thank God this person is no longer part of our basketball community. This is not what we need. To the media outlets, thank you for your help and hard work, you are bringing much needed attention to our game and athletes, lets just make sure we do it the right way and keep up the good work. Now on to the basketball.
I was once coached by Ro Russell, and he actually reached out to me after the airing of the story. It is widely known that at one point Ro was very much father figure to me. We went and did everything together. We have since had our differences and I have for the most part severed ties with him. However, there is no bad blood between us, and I am confident Ro, as he has ensured me will clear the air and set the record straight between my program (The Hoop Factory), Grassroots, and the player(s) associated with both programs. The misconceptions have further divided our basketball community and that has never been my intentions. I am very much about community, and it will take co-operation from the members of our basketball community to build a strong one. More than anything the members of our community must lead this change.
It is not the responsibility nor place for government, shoe companies or corporate Canada to fix. Basketball always has, and always will be driven by communities. The community coach, mentor, and teams are at the foundation of any successful basketball program. When these individuals are not recognized it damages the game. I have always tried to share and include these people who are at the root of any success that may follow a player. In basketball we all start somewhere. What you see on T.V is the result of work done by many coaches behind the scenes over a number of years.
Our basketball community has never recognized these people from the top level down, and its resulted in what we have today. A community where everyone has “made” or “built” a particular player. All in the effort to be recognized! In basketball a coach taking sole credit for the success of a player couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the most successful coaches are many times the ones with the best relationships. In others words someone (the relationships) has really help in the “making” of the coach, not the other way around. Strong relationships help land talented players and if he or she can coach, that helps too. Our community needs to become a community. Where success is shared amongst all who are involved in the process. Until this happens, what you see now and the climate within our community will never change. Our community needs to protect these people and ensure their efforts never go unnoticed. I have never publicly attacked anyone, and i wont start now. Our basketball community needs unity, without a doubt in my mind.
I hope that the airing of this documentary will spark healthy conversation, both the good and the bad that need to be addressed. Most importantly I want people to know these kids were brave and we need to show our support to them right now. Not tear them down. The message sent by tearing them down is something we all know is wrong. Speaking up for what we believe in is something we all need to instill in our kids. #4ThePlayers
Thank you to basketballbuzz.ca for being the platform.