This week, a judge in Chicago gave NBA star Dwayne Wade sole custody of his two sons. The decision was made after a prolonged legal battle between Wade and his ex-wife, Siohvaughn. The boys are currently 8 and 3 years old. Wade has argued that his ex-wife has become violent toward him and falsely accused him of abusing his sons. A court-appointed representative for the boys made the recommendation that Wade be given full custody and that his ex-wife receive a mental evaluation.
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I happened to be in Chicago when I heard about Wade’s custody decision (which took place in a Chicago courtroom). What’s even more ironic is that I heard about the decision shortly after having an opportunity to watch an episode of the television show, “Basketball Wives.” During the show, I thought about the “interesting” custody battle between another baller, Dwight Howard and his ex-girlfriend Royce Reed, who is a member of the show’s cast.
Let’s be clear: the women on the “Basketball Wives” appear to be borderline crazy. They seem to feed off of drama, deceit and the kind of animosity that makes you feel sorry for any man who has chosen to associate with them. I’ve also can’t understand how being married to a famous person somehow gives you the illusion that you’ve actually accomplished something yourself.
With that said, shows like “Basketball Wives” are (admittedly skewed) reminders that not every black male athlete is working overtime to abandon his family. Some of these athletes are dealing with women who can be just as evil, ferocious and destructive as any man we know. I know quite a few people who watched Dwight Howard grow up, and the overwhelming reaction I’ve received from those who know him is that he works very hard to be a good person. This is in contrast to the public’s perception of black male athletes as nasty, irresponsible and arrogant human beings.
What I also find interesting about the custody battles of both Wade and Howard is that we should not be shocked that a man wants and receives full custody of his own children. Mothers get custody on a regular basis and it doesn’t become a news flash. Men like Eric Legette spend all of their time working with fathers to help them to secure rights to see their kids, with some mothers (not all) using the negative image of the black male to their advantage by presenting the father as a pathetic, immoral slob who chooses to live a reckless life. Additionally, what might otherwise be seen as a standard variation in parenting approaches can be chastised by a mother who’s become convinced that she made the baby all by herself and has authoritarian rights to control every aspect of the father-child relationship (Why did you have my baby up past 10 o’clock? Why was my child in the car with that girlfriend of yours?). In order for the black family to regain its strength as a formal institution within our community, we must regain respect for the rights of fathers who are seeking to do the right thing.
It’s good to see high profile cases about black men fighting for their children. This is in contrast to other stories that feature athletes who take pride in being seen as blinged-out drunkards who chase women and get arrested at night clubs. The truth is that the black male is just as human as everyone else and we love our children too. Congrats to Dwayne Wade for standing up for his parental rights, and I encourage other brothers to follow his lead.