Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV didn’t just cut off his signature hair this week, he opened up about the personal reason why.
Walker, 21, broadcast the haircut on Instagram live and explained that growing out his hair and experimenting with different colors as a kid was a coping mechanism, revealing he was sexually abused as a child and felt that his hair was something he could control.
“The real truth as to why I started doing this early 5th grade, it was a cloaking device for me,” Walker wrote in the caption, accompanying a video describing his hairstyles over the years. “During the summer of my 5th grade year I was around more family. Some [whose] names will be left alone I was around more.
“I was sexually harassed, raped, abused. I even got accustomed to it because being at that age, you don’t know what is what. I was a gullible, curious kid that didn’t know what the real world was. 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.”
In the video of his haircut, Walker’s voice narrates his story with corresponding images of all his former hairstyles: a small Mohawk in seventh grade, a red-dyed Mohawk in eighth grade and a flat top in ninth grade, and so on. Now sporting a hook partially shaved into his hairline and a cross shaved into the back, he also opened up about how much the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on his mental health.
“As of recently, I wasn’t at my best,” he wrote. “Previous history popping up in my head and it sucked mentally. ‘Demons’… Because of this virus, I began to truly look at myself in the mirror and see who I truly was, even behind closed doors. Long story short I have found peace and internal happiness through this journey, God willingly. I forgave everyone, even the people that don’t deserve it. Why? Because it’s dead weight.
“Time doesn’t wait on anyone so why should I waste my time on it? 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, [I am] better than ever. Out with [the] old. In with the new. I have shed my skin mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
“Life will always be hard. Gotta play with the cards you’re dealt with and try and make a winning hand. And if you lose. It’s never a loss. It’s a lesson.”
The NBA began focusing on mental health in recent years after All-Stars Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan spoke out about their experiences. Before the 2019-20 season, the league instilled that teams had to retain and make available at least one mental health professional and identify a licensed psychiatrist their players could use.
Walker’s agent, George Langberg said that the second-year guard out of Miami has had a weight lifted off his shoulder.
“This is something that Lonnie has been dealing with for some time,” his agent, George Langberg, said in a statement on behalf of his client when reached for comment by ESPN. “Being able to share this 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. Lonnie appreciates the outpouring of support and appreciates everyone respecting his privacy at this time.”