Marshall Henderson says it was a social experiment. Twitter overwhelmingly called it B.S. ESPN made it front page news.

I'll make it my own social analysis.

Stage One: The Reaction

Early Monday morning, less than 48 hours after Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL, former Mississippi basketball player Marshall Henderson tweeted a rather anti-gay remark.


Let's take a step back for a second. Who is Marshall Henderson?

Henderson is a disgruntled five-year cult college basketball star. After bouncing around for three years (playing two seasons) at Utah, Texas Tech (never played a game) and Scotch Plains Junior College, Henderson landed at Ole Miss for two seasons.

In 2012-13, Henderson averaged an SEC-high 20.1 points and was named conference Newcomer of the Year. He led the Rebels to a surprise SEC tournament title, earning MVP. He capped off his on-court success with 19 points in 12th-seeded Mississippi's NCAA tournament win against No. 5 Wisconsin. In 2013-14, Henderson had another successful statistical year, averaging 19.0 points. He was named to the All-SEC second team for both his seasons in Oxford.

Off-the-court, Henderson is a different story. Henderson was put on probation in 2010 for a counterfeit money charge. He violated the probation in January 2012 after testing positive for cocaine, marijuana and alcohol. He spent 25 days in jail after violating the probation, not helped by his failure to meet community service requirements. Henderson also was also suspended for the first three games of this season due to drug possession.

This is not to mention Henderson's on-court antics, a style he says makes him a "villain." After winning the 2013 SEC tournament, Henderson mocked runner-up Florida's fans with a gator chomp. Early the next morning, he unleashed a then-infamous tweet proclaiming his stardom on the partying scene.


Today's retweets put that tweet to shame.

When Henderson tweeted Monday morning, he did not exactly have a track record to spare him. Henderson was immediately attacked on Twitter. While he was not the first athlete to send out a distasteful tweet about the Michael Sam buzz (Miami Dolphins defensive back Don Jones was suspended and Texas quarterback Case McCoy sent out a questionable tweet), his words may have been the most vicious and made by the tweeter with the worst reputation.

There is something to be said for the content of Henderson's tweet. It almost seems fishy how disgusting it was. Could a public figure, in this day and age, really be that foolish? Most people probably thought if there is anyone who could be that awfully candid, it could be the reckless Henderson.

To take one more step back, let's think about how interesting Henderson's reach is. As of 7:30 p.m. ET, Henderson had more than 70,000 followers, an increase of about 10,000 from the start of the day. Sure, Henderson had his 15 minutes of fame last March, but other than that, he is a relatively unknown with the exception of illegal behavior.

Within minutes of the tweet, it became clear how powerful social media is regarding athletes. Henderson's remarks were national news. He just finished his fifth year at a relatively average college basketball program. He will be lucky if he squeezes into the second round of the NBA draft. Yet, a message sent on social media that could have come from Henderson's bedroom made national headlines.

We learned this country cares a lot about college basketball. This country takes homosexual tolerance seriously. And this country spends a lot of time on Twitter.

Within minutes of his initial tweet, Henderson was news on such sites as Yahoo! Sports and CBS Sports.

Stage Two: Henderson changes course

Personally, the first tweet I saw on my timeline (yes, I started following him in March 2013) was Henderson thanking his followers for their responses. I saw this and curiously clicked on his timeline to see what his followers were responding to.

Henderson then fired back with a drumroll and his now-infamous "cover-up" tweets.





And so began the most interesting part of this story.

Henderson continued with a string of tweets proclaiming his innocence. He claimed he turned Twitter on its back. He used his powerful social media platform to drive a reaction for a psychological study for his gay friend. He used the viral effect of the Internet for his own study.

Of course, the world did not believe the noted drug-user and party animal. The media were equally candid in their responses.




By the way, Bomani Jones has become the Mother Teresa of sports world tolerance if you have not noticed.

There were those who questioned Henderson's prevalence.


Zach Lowe makes a good point. How did 15 minutes of fame last March make Marshall Henderson relevant today? Well, that is what made Monday such a good athlete-Twitter analysis.

Stage Three: The re-reaction

It did not matter Henderson apologized. He was not getting the benefit of the doubt.

Mississippi athletic director Ross Bjork tweeted twice Monday. Both condemned Henderson's tweets and proclaimed Mississippi's innocence.



Bjork never followed up to those three dots. He made the second tweet moments before Henderson announced he was doing a psychological study for his gay friend. Bjork also never backtracked on those tweets and never defended Henderson's "study" accusations.

Of course, another interesting portion of this is Henderson and Bjork going back and forth on Twitter. These stories could not have happened ten years ago. Henderson put himself in the public eye with a tweet. The leader of athletics at the university he played came out of nowhere to disaffiliate with Henderson. They played chess through the Internet. With Henderson on his way out of Oxford, there was not much Bjork could do other than put his feelings into 140 characters.

Despite Henderson's proclaiming innocence, he was not believed. Even people who entertained his possible honesty called Henderson out as being a liar. Mississippi's commencement was Saturday. How could he really have a friend studying psychology who is about to graduate? Is this a friend who does not go to the University of Mississippi?


Henderson's defense was seemingly tossed out the window. Until he could come up with evidence of this "friend," he was considered a liar trying to cover up a disgusting public viewpoint. He was guilty until proved innocent.

Henderson did not help his case by covering up his own beliefs.


Stage Four: Real Media

Maybe Marshall Henderson did not know the power of his Twitter handle. Maybe he did not expect to cause a ruckus. Maybe he did not think his cult following could make his anti-gay remarks national news in a matter of minutes.

After breaking the news about the study, Henderson gave Michael Sam a shout-out.


And he went on his way ...


... to ESPN ... hours after saying he was "boycotting" SportsCenter.

According to ESPN, Henderson said over the phone: "My stance on gay athletes is irrelevant. The whole reason we chose to do this is because my friend is gay. If it was wrong for me to do it, so be it."

He also said he plans to meet the friend in Dallas, Henderson's home city, on Tuesday. The friend in question is gay, but not open.

According to Henderson, what he did is "a psychologist and educator's dream."

Stage Five: Aftermath

For many people, the story is over. Either Henderson is a homophobe who made a public statement that deserves no part of modern society or he made an insensitive joke.

There is the possibility Henderson is telling the truth. Yes, he is crazy, and it would not be a surprise for him to make that brutal statement on Twitter, but Henderson could also be crazy enough to pull such a stunt. This is a guy who did the gator chomp at the Florida faithful. He does not think much about how others may react to his actions (or maybe he thinks into it more than we think, if you catch this confusing drift).

When I read the original tweet, I was as appalled as anybody. But I cannot deem Henderson guilty until there is proof. He made a statement about a psychological study, he has created a story and he has the right to prove it.

One of two situations will come to the surface Tuesday. Either Marshall Henderson is an insensitive liar who is scrambling to maintain his already watered-down image by making up a story in the spotlight, or Marshall Henderson just pulled off one of the most elaborate public figure stunts on Twitter.

Maybe his friend is starting a summer study or maybe "study" is code word for a greater analysis. Hypothetically speaking, let's say a friend of Marshall Henderson came out to Marshall Henderson, but the friend said he was nervous to come out about his sexuality. Would anyone put it past Marshall Henderson to pull off an elaborate stunt like this?

If his friend puts together an actual study of the responses Henderson received, how interesting would that be? How powerful would it be to show the tolerance and intolerance of America? How intriguing would it be to show the power remarks on Twitter can have in our daily lives.

If the study is published, I will read it. If it is not, this part was interesting while it lasted.

-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.

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