Kareem Abdul-Jabbar slams 'gotcha' questions that athletes are asked by the press as 'antagonistic' and 'infuriating' in mental health essay

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar slams 'gotcha' questions that athletes are asked by the press as 'antagonistic' and 'infuriating' in mental health essay
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Los Angeles Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attends the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies basketball game at Staples Center on February 21, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Los Angeles Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attends the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies basketball game at Staples Center on February 21, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork S. Djansezian/Getty Images

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticized the media for asking athletes "gotcha" questions after games in an op-ed about mental health in sports.

In his essay published in the Hollywood Reporter, Abdul-Jabbar applauded athletes like tennis star Naomi Osaka and Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love for openly speaking about their mental health struggles.

He said that post-game interviews can be "much worse than the actual competition" for some athletes, especially introverts.

"Reporters often look to elicit a dramatic, headline-grabbing quote by provoking the athlete, goading them about losing or about their public stances for social justice," he wrote. "When I was an active player, the repetition of these kinds of antagonistic 'gotcha' questions game after game, year after year, was frustrating and sometimes infuriating. For all of us, it takes a toll."

He added that the public should stop punishing athletes and celebrities when they are anything less than "paragons of perfection," and instead admire them "for all they've accomplished despite their challenges."

"It's a reflection of our own character whether we choose to be supportive or derisive, because that reflects either our capacity for compassion - or the depth of our own personal fears," he said.

Abdul-Jabbar's op-ed comes weeks after Osaka withdrew rom the French Open to take a mental health break.

Osaka's decision renewed a conversation about mental health among athletes, similar to a conversation sparked by Love following an essay he wrote about having panic attacks in 2018 for the Players Tribune.

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