Two NBA players of different eras, Lonnie Walker and Ray Allen, and how having their hair cut helped deliver important messages

By Joel Alderman

Hair today and gone tomorrow may be the bywords of two NBA players, one a current roster member and the other a retired star. In unrelated events each has recently had his hair clipped and in the process delivered important social messages.

The player of today is San Antonio Spurs’ guard Lonnie Walker. He did away with his towering hairstyle last week.

The other is Ray Allen, a Hall of Famer whose career included being on four teams. He had allowed his hair to grow out of his previously shaved dome while in self-quarantine as a defense against the coronavirus. About the same time Walker was changing his appearance, Allen was getting rid of his modest growth to return to his trademark bald head.

The two had different reasons, but they both helped to deliver statements. Let’s explore them.

Lonnie Walker

He revealed that when he was in the fifth grade he was sexually assaulted. “I had a mindset that my hair was something that I can control. My hair was what I can make and create and be mine. And it gave (me) confidence,” said the 21-year old. In the short time the league was playing, before the Covid-l9 hault, Walker was averaging 5.6 points and 2.2 rebounds off the bench. Ths is just his second year in the NBA after being selected as the No. 18 overall pick in 2018.

Cutting his hair was symbolic and gave him a new start. “I forgave everyone, even the people that don’t deserve it,” he explained.

“Me cutting my hair was more than a cut. My hair was a mask of me hiding the insecurities that I felt the world wasn’t ready for. But now better than ever. Out with old. In with the new. I have shed my skin mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.”

Walker’s agent, George Langberg, told ESPN that sharing the experiences of abuse in his childhood “shows tremendous strength and courage, while also lifting a weight off of Lonnie. It is his hope that by opening up, it will help anyone who reads his story that may have been sexually abused in the past, or anyone who may be going through something similar now, to know that they are not alone.”

Ray Allen

In April Allen said he would not cut his hair until the coronavirus “kicks rocks.” But now with the virus still rampant, the Hall of Famer wrote “As I am cutting my hair, I will be getting rid of all of the angst that I have felt over the last three months. It doesn’t mean that our problems are over with, it means that I will no longer let them control my emotions negatively.”

By the simple expedient of going back to his bald look, he created a platform to deliver a serious statement.

“November is coming everyone and we need to keep this same energy. We need a change in a bad way people, not only as a country but locally as well. The change we need to see in America is about each one of you speaking truth to power.”

More than about hair

One man is a 21-year old in his second year in the league. The other, more than twice as old at 44, is a retired Hall of Famer, who played 18 seasons with four teams in the NBA. But they had at least one thing in common. They each got special haircuts- haircuts that gave them platforms to speak out, one on sexual abuse of minors and the other on racial discrimination against blacks. Both are problems in society that need to be solved.

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