07/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Derrick Rose Gang Sign Photo Controversy: Rose Calls It A Bad Joke

Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose moved quickly to try to tamp down a growing controversy over a photo circulating online of him flashing gang signs.

In a statement released Thursday, shortly after the Chicago Tribune and other news outlets reported on the photo, Rose called the picture a bad joke made during his one year at the University of Memphis and strongly denied that he has ever been involved in gang activity.

The full statement:

Recently, a photo has been circulating on the Internet which appears to depict me flashing a gang sign.

This photo of me 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. I want to emphatically state, now and forever, that Derrick Rose is anti-gang, anti-drug, and anti-violence.

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.

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. I pride myself on being a good citizen, and role model, that young people can look up to and I want to urge all my young fans to stay away from gangs and gang-related activities.

In the picture, Rose was throwing signs for the Gangster Disciples Nation, a prominent Chicago gang with tens of thousands of members, according to the Tribune. The gang is a dominant presence in the Englewood neighborhood where Rose grew up.