Tristan Thompson and “The Kiss”

Anyone remember the “famous” Joe Namath-Suzy Kolber kiss? Joe was loaded at the time, and he was probably channeling his inner self back to the time when he was 1960s “Broadway Joe” with the fur coat and everyone told him he was irresistible.

“The Kiss” occurred in 2003 and by then, the women’s movement had already been evolving for decades. To his credit, Joe called Suzy the next day and apologized. He told the media that he was embarrassed and felt humiliated. He checked into rehab. However, no matter how much he had tried to correct his drunken mistake, “the kiss” is what is remembered.

Tristan ThompsonEnter Tristan Thompson, and it’s an NBA exhibition game in the year 2014 – and another decade of women’s rights have passed. Thompson, a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers was being interviewed by Fox sideline reporter Allie Clifton.

As the interview was unfolding (you know, questions about basketball), Thompson leaned in and planted a kiss on the reporter’s cheek. Why? I do not know.

Dial it back – and dial it up

Do I think that Tristan Thompson is a raging sexual deviant? No, I do not. I also believe, truly, that in his heart he was not trying to sexually harass anyone. I think that in a moment of silliness he thought it would be cute to lean over and kiss the reporter.

But it was also a dumb move, presumptuous, violated boundaries and discounted who she was as a professional.

You see, we all know that a professional basketball player, the 1 percent of all collegiate basketball players who are blessed enough, athletic enough, skilled enough, lucky enough to make it into the NBA, do not show up on the court by accident. It takes years and years of hard work no matter the raw talent level.

Allie Clifton, Cavaliers sideline reporter, is paying her dues as a journalist. It has taken her years and years to get to the point where her work is trusted enough and respected enough so that she is entrusted with a professional basketball game.

I understand that over the course of a season, players and reporters can get friendly, in much the same way that two people in the marketing department of a company can be friendly. However, certain lines should not be crossed and I guarantee that Thompson knew it. Let the woman do her job. It is that simple.

In the end there are two careers at stake.

In this case, Allie Clifton’s career was sustained and maybe even a little improved because she was calm and cool as Thompson crossed a line he should not have crossed. As for Mr. Thompson he did nothing to help himself off the court in terms of endorsements and other opportunities. What he did (seemingly innocent in Joe Namath’s day), is quite offensive to many today.

I will grant Tristan Thompson this: if he has not gone through true, Sports Ethics training where he is taught choices and consequences and the long-term effects of those consequences, he might after understood what he was doing. We need to cut him just a little slack.

It is almost always off-the-court or field behaviors that get athletes into trouble. In this case, it was literally just off the court – but it was far enough.



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