• Dennis Wierzbicki
  • Derrick Rose at the United Center on Saturday night

Somebody was sure to say something about Derrick Rose in the Monday papers, and I was glad it was Rick Telander. Telander is moral without being a moralist, so I expected him to applaud Rose’s decision to wear a T-shirt Saturday that said “I can’t breathe” without the squirming that goes with wishing, even so, that Rose hadn’t done it.

“The thing about Rose . . .” wrote Telander, “is that he hasn’t been outspoken about anything, let alone injustice, until recently.” Off-court, Rose has been a cypher during his seven seasons with the Bulls, two of which he sat out. He exists on his website as an appendage of Adidas, and though the site’s “news” page chooses to mention that he donated $1 million to After School Matters, it doesn’t mention that he made a public statement about a black man suffocated by white cops.

And there’s no mention of Rose’s recent comeuppance when he said something about life after basketball that might not have been perfectly phrased. “I think a lot of people don’t understand that when I sit out, it’s not because of this year,” said Rose. “I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball, having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to.” Sportswriters fed up with his lollygagging replied that this wasn’t “exactly what a blue-collar team playing in a perceived blue-collar city wants, or needs, to hear,” and that “he hit 11 on the Stupid-O-Meter on Tuesday.”

So I’m happy Rose’s solidarity with Eric Garner wasn’t addressed by someone who holds that playing with pain is the highest expression of an athlete’s conscience. Instead it was Telander, who concluded, “as an old-school observer, I have to say it’s good to see Rose loaded up and ready to become a man.”