The Norman Transcript

National Sports

February 24, 2013

Royce White, pioneer for the mentally ill?

HOUSTON — Royce White may never make it in the NBA.

The Houston Rockets’ first-round draft pick might drift into anonymity as a role player, someone more familiar on the bench than on the court.

Yet no matter what path his career takes, he’s already built a legacy — as a fierce, outspoken advocate for the mentally ill and their legal rights in the workplace. In his case, that workplace is the highest level of professional basketball in the world.

White has general anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder and he’s finally back on the court after refusing to play for 2 1/2 months until he got special additions, or protocols, put in his contract to help him cope with his condition. The basis for White’s stand was the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal law that requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with a physical or mental impairment.

White’s often contentious and very public dispute with his team culminated in late January with a unique (cut ‘written’) agreement that addresses White’s issues. White joined the Rockets’ developmental league affiliate two weeks ago to resume the career that got him all the attention in the first place.

“It was tough not being able to play,” White said, “but it was necessary.”

Lawyers say White’s campaign raises intriguing questions about how the ADA addresses mental illness in professional sports, and may provide a road map for other athletes to follow. Psychiatrists say White’s openness about his disorder has already helped lift the stigma of mental illness and may embolden other athletes to publicly acknowledge their afflictions.

In itself, an athlete dealing with mental illness is not a recent development.

Outfielder Jimmy Piersall famously coped with bipolar disorder in the 1950s, spending seven weeks in a mental hospital at one point. He returned to baseball, was twice named to the All-Star team and played in the majors until the late 1960s. Pitcher Zack Greinke almost quit baseball because of his social anxiety disorder, but learned to control it and was named the AL Cy Young award winner in 2009. Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall has been named to four Pro Bowls despite an acknowledged borderline personality disorder. Retired NFL running back Ricky Williams won the Heisman Trophy at Texas and played 11 NFL seasons while dealing with social anxiety disorder.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
National Sports
  • Fieger leads Senior PGA

    PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Gene Fieger shot a 3-under 69 in windy conditions Thursday to take a four-stroke lead in the Senior PGA Professional National Championship....

    April 18, 2014

  • Kuchar builds on momentum

    HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — There were no major letdowns for Masters contenders Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage on Thursday. Kuchar, who tied for fifth at Augusta National, shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 to share the ...

    April 18, 2014

  • Angel Jimenez set for Champions Tour debut

    DULUTH, Ga. — Miguel Angel Jimenez’s starring role in the best Masters ever for players 50 and over was the perfect lead-in for his Champions Tour debut....

    April 18, 2014

  • Puig focuses on baseball despite issues

    SAN FRANCISCO — Yasiel Puig believes he has the support from his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates and the club to help him keep his focus on baseball despite challenges off the field....

    April 18, 2014

  • Wainwright two-hits Nats

    WASHINGTON — Adam Wainwright threw a two-hitter Thursday night for his seventh career shutout, chipped in at the plate with a double and single, and St. Louis benefited from four errors by Washington in the Cardinals’ 8-0 victory....

    April 18, 2014

  • Rangers edge M’s

    ARLINGTON, Texas — When Kevin Kouzmanoff was riding the buses in Double-A two seasons ago, he kept his focus on returning to the majors and providing the kind of production that he is now delivering for the Texas Rangers....

    April 18, 2014

  • Shields strikes out 12 as Royals sweep Astros

    HOUSTON — James Shields struck out 12 in eight innings and the Kansas City Royals completed a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros with a 5-1 win on Thursday night....

    April 18, 2014

  • Bucks owner Herb Kohl reaches deal to sell team

    MILWAUKEE — Bucks owner Herb Kohl has reached a deal to sell the franchise to New York investment firm executives Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens for about $550 million....

    April 17, 2014

  • Hopes high for Negro League stadium comeback

    PATERSON, N.J. — The light touch of a paint roller is enough to dislodge a chunk of plaster from the crumbling walls of Hinchliffe Stadium. Though silent for decades, the former home of several Negro League teams is getting another chance ...

    April 17, 2014

  • Ryu takes early lead in LPGA LOTTE

    KAPOLEI, Hawaii — So Yeon Ryu shot a 4-under 68 on Wednesday to take the lead halfway through a windy first round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship. Japan’s Ayako Uehara was one stroke back....

    April 17, 2014