I feel bad for former Los Angeles Laker turned broadcaster, Mychal Thompson, his wife, and family. I really do. I can only imagine their pain and hurt when they learned that their son, Klay, star college basketball player at Washington St., was arrested for smoking marijuana. For parents that have preached to their child about the dangers of drugs and have instilled in him proper values and ethics, it's the ultimate slap in the face. If it was my child, I would feel the same way. I would be livid.
What makes his arrest even more upsetting is that Klay has so much going for him. He has been raised by loving parents in a comfortable and warm home, is the best player on his team, and is trying to lead the Cougars to a berth in the NCAA tournament. He may even forgo his senior year and enter the NBA draft. As a result of his mistake and subsequent suspension, it is highly unlikely that the Cougars will earn a spot in March madness, and undoubtedly, his stock will drop in the eyes of many NBA general managers.
Mychal was so disgusted with his son's actions that he wanted to discuss them on 710 ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, with the rest of the world. His co-host praised him for being courageous and willing to talk about such a difficult and emotional issue and hoped that Mychal's forthrightness would serve as an inspiration and model for other parents dealing with similar issues.
But while I admire his honesty, courage, and frankness in confronting Klay's mistake in public, I believe that Mychal overstepped his boundaries as a father in the manner in which he rebuked his son. In addition to admitting that the public rebuke of his son was intended to embarrass him and to serve as a wake-up call, he also spoke in such derogatory terms about his son that was unbecoming of a father to share with a public audience. He called Klay "stupid," an "idiot," "dumb," and "irresponsible." If a radio host were to make similar negative statements about a public figure in order to generate good conversation, I wouldn't mind hearing that type of passion and opinion. However, it is irresponsible for a father to denigrate a child publicly in that way.
There is an important Biblical story that underscores the importance of maintaining proper boundaries, especially regarding the public treatment of one's child. Simeon & Levi pillaged the city of Shechem, killing every male in the city in retribution for the raping of their sister, Dinah, by the hands of its Prince. When Jacob learned what had happened, he was furious. He screamed at his two sons and reproached them for committing a most heinous crime. He angrily remarked that their actions put the entire family in danger of being attacked. Indeed, Jacob never forgot about their irresponsible behavior and rebuked them on his deathbed! As angry as Jacob was, he did not approach the neighboring nations and inform them that his sons were "stupid," or "dumb," and that they acted like "idiots," even though they used terrible judgment. This is because Jacob understood that certain discussions must remain private, among family members only, without broadcasting his feelings to the rest of the world.
I applaud Mychal and his wife for being fantastic parents. I believe wholeheartedly that Klay's mistake was not due to ineffective parenting. They seem to have done as good a job as possible or at least they tried to. However, the feelings of resentment and frustration stemming from an act that has been preached against in the Thompson home since Klay was in the 5th grade, do not warrant a public humiliation.
What Mychal needs to recognize is that his on-air rant was more about his own disappointment and despair and not about what is in the best interests of his son. If Mychal had been more self-aware, he would have realized, as Jacob did, that if he wanted to have a positive impact on his son and their future relationship, his criticism should have remained behind closed doors.
Follow Rabbi Joshua Hess on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rabbihess