Where’s the Media Sympathy for Lamar Odom?

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley
Lamar Odom 
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Of course you’ve heard that two-time NBA champion Lamar Odom was found unresponsive in Las Vegas on Tuesday. He was taken to a local hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

This has caused a major media frenzy, a circus. I guess it’s to be expected because Odom is a celebrity. He became a familiar face during his days playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, and he was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year pick for the 2010-11 season.


In 2009, while he was a professional athlete, he became even more famous when he met and married reality star Khloe Kardashian, a brief courtship that was captured on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. A spinoff show, Khloe & Lamar, followed the couple after they were married.

Celebrity is one cause of the circus; the other is the details of Odom’s tragic circumstances. He was found, not on the Las Vegas Strip, but in a legal brothel. And the woman who found him? A prostitute. There are salacious (and unsubstantiated) reports that Odom was indulging in sexual stimulants. And while Nevada officials confirmed that Odom had drugs in his system, early reports in the media had no problem labeling his activities “a drug binge” before there were any official details.


This is a sad, sad story. Not because Odom had so much athletic skill or so much fame, or because people felt they “knew” him, since they’d watched him on reality TV. The story is sad because Odom is a person, someone’s son, two little people’s daddy and a whole lot of other people’s friend. And the media—the same media that bent over backward to humanely tell the story of another recent tragedy, involving the Long Island, N.Y., mother and dermatologist who visited a “cocaine apartment” in New York City and was later found dead in the building lobby—seems to have lost sight of the humanity it temporarily found for that woman, Kiersten Rickenbach Cerveny.

To be fair, I’ve seen bright spots in the coverage of Odom’s situation. Over at ESPN, there’s a story about Odom with the headline “This is Incredibly Sad,” which handles the story with sensitivity and reminds the audience that Odom was more than a Kardashian husband; he was an accomplished man before he found additional fame on TV. 


But nearly everywhere else? Geez. Journalists are stumbling over themselves to use the words “prostitute,” “brothel” and “Kardashian” as if they were part of a drinking game, as if they got a bonus every time they saw or printed these words. Over at MSNBC, there’s a story about “The Tragic Life of Lamar Odom.” I think it’s supposed to be an explanation of what could have caused Odom’s alleged drug use, but it reads like a timeline of pathology. I mean, really, the man lived 35 years. Some horrible things happened in his life, yes, but was his whole life “tragic”? He didn’t have any joy worth mentioning at all?

I want to see some overwhelming sympathy for Odom in the media, similar to what social media is giving us with the hashtag #PrayersForLamar (black Twitter for the win!). I want to hear about how tragic this circumstance is—not just how his life has been filled with loss after loss after loss, but how damn tragic it is that a 35-year-old father—a young man—is in a coma fighting for that life.


I want somebody, anybody, to fall all over themselves and weep all over the page in sorrow. Talk about his children, and how he loved them and how what a loss to their lives it could be if Dad takes a turn for the worse. Humanize Lamar Odom instead of treating him like an object or a reality star’s estranged husband, as if that were his life’s biggest accomplishment, when it isn’t.

I also want to hear Odom’s best-of-times stories. They’re irrelevant to his fight for life, but it was irrelevant to tell us that Cerveny, who died in a trap house, was once a pageant queen. So spill until I get warm and fuzzy and my eyes well up.


Run down every accomplishment Odom ever received, from the junior varsity squad on up. Was he homecoming king? I want to hear about it. Millions of fans enjoyed his performance on the court? Add a GIF to the story of a crowd cheering for a great play that Odom made. Make a comprehensive list of every time he scored a triple double. If Ice Cube could do it on a good day, I know Lam Lam did it without trying all that hard.  

And stop calling that place where he was found a “brothel.” Sanitize this story, too. Call it a spa. Or a retreat. Stop saying he was on a “drug binge.” When Cerveny ran off to the city to drink and allegedly use drugs until 4 a.m., the Daily Beast said that she was “blowing off steam.” So for Odom, let’s just say he was “relaxing in the desert.” The women who found him? Not prostitutes. They are happiness consultants.


Am I asking for too much here? I mean, is there a particular reason that Odom can’t get his story spit-shined up like the rich, blond mommy’s? I mean, he’s worth an alleged $50 million, so he’s affluent, like Cerveny. Is it that celebrities don’t get that treatment? Is it only done for women? Is it because Odom’s black?

You tell me.

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter.

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