The unwritten rules that govern locker rooms and clubhouses across sports are fairly standard. They're tied together by a thread of common sense that deters you from stealing, cheating or snitching. Most of the rules can essentially be boiled down to the same, catchy slogan that has become synonymous with Las Vegas: "What happens here, stays here."
When Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell recorded a private conversation with teammate Nick Young, during which he asked Young -- who is engaged to rapper Iggy Azalea -- about being with other women, he broke that cardinal rule. When the video of that recording ended up online for public consumption -- well, he essentially took a sledgehammer to the rule. Although it's unclear how the video became public, it might be impossible at this point for Russell to piece back any semblance of trust with his teammates, according to several former athletes.
"There are levels to the rules," said SportsNation co-host Marcellus Wiley, who played in the NFL for 10 seasons. "The violations start at pillow talk, and that happens in every single locker room. Guys are talking amongst guys, and someone goes home and tells their significant other, and that turns to gossip, and someone else hears about it from the outside and it comes back into the locker room. That's a misdemeanor, because it happens so often. But what D'Angelo did was felonious. This is the worst example I've ever seen. This is damning."
The Lakers selected Russell, who turned 20 last month, with the second overall pick in last year's draft. He and Young, 30, developed a bond this season and routinely hung out off the court. In the video, it appears Russell is recording Young at his house while they are watching TV. Despite their close relationship, some are finding it hard to believe Russell will ever be able to regain the trust of Young or other teammates.
"If you're on my team, we spend so much time together and we go through everything together, we're more than just friends." said ESPN NBA analyst Antonio Davis, who played for 13 seasons and is a former president of the National Basketball Players Association. "We're like brothers because of everything we've gone through. So for your brother to do something like that and for it to end up on social media, that's lower than low. It says so much about [Russell]. I think it might get so bad that he's going to have to be traded. If I'm on that team, I'm not playing with him. It would literally be hard for me to sit in the locker room with him."
Chances are Russell won't be traded this offseason, but there's a strong possibility the Lakers' roster will be overhauled. That could include the team parting ways with Young, which could give Russell a fresh start with the same team. The story, however, won't go away.
"Fortunately for D'Angelo Russell, that team is in such flux there will be a tremendous amount of roster turnover, and that could help him a little bit," said ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler, who played for 10 seasons. "But even new guys coming in are going to know about this event. It's a shady thing to do. People can write it off as immaturity, but I think it goes deeper than that. I think it speaks to your integrity as a person and your overall trustworthiness. It's going to be a difficult thing for him to shed. I don't know how you recover from something like this."
"If this happened in an NFL locker room, I would be shocked if there wasn't a physical altercation of some sort."Jeff Saturday, former Colts and Packers center
The Lakers players have responded to the incident by isolating Russell, according to ESPN sources. Reportedly, no Laker would sit at his table during a recent breakfast, and when Russell sat next to Louis Williams in the locker room, Williams got up and walked away.
The reaction might not have been as muted if a similar incident occurred on a football team.
"If this happened in an NFL locker room, I would be shocked if there wasn't a physical altercation of some sort," said ESPN NFL analyst Jeff Saturday, who played 13 seasons for the Colts and one for the Packers. "I definitely don't agree with Young doing whatever he's doing, but as a teammate and as a friend, my expectation is that you come to me first. I would have never have expected it to end up on social media. We have rules that everyone abides by as a team, and this is our family away from our family, and we have to treat it like that. There are things that happen in your family and in your home that you wouldn't want broadcast on social media. There are conversations that you don't want everyone in America knowing. You have to be able to have that trust amongst your teammates."
Russell has been called out for his immaturity on other occasions this season. In February, Lakers coach Byron Scott said: "He's such a kid. I told him the other day, 'You're 19, but sometimes I think you're 14.' "
The video Russell recorded of Young, however, represents to former players something worse than immaturity.
"If I'm a rookie and I'm asking my vet, who's engaged, what really happens, I'm getting that information to help me with the game and in the streets," Davis said. "I'm not shooting a documentary and putting it on Snapchat. C'mon, dude. It just sheds some light on D'Angelo Russell and who he really is. Can this guy be trusted? For you to be at my house or for me to be at your house and you to record me like that? It's almost like he's setting him up. It's crazy. This is going to follow him. . . . It's never going away."
Not everybody interviewed for this story thought the damage to Russell was permanent. It won't happen overnight, but if this is his biggest violation of the unwritten rules, Russell might bounce back in time. However, a lot of that could depend on Young.
"The only way you gain favor back is if the offended party forgives you and says, 'We're good,' " said Lakers radio broadcaster Mychal Thompson, who had a 13-year NBA career. "I think that will depend on how this affects Nick's personal life and the ramifications of this. That's something D'Angelo is going to have to hope works out. This is a unique situation, but this won't follow him forever. We have short memories. There will be another story that captures our attention."