Karl-Anthony Towns could have kept his mom’s health condition private. He could have worried in silence, knowing it was no one else’s business. Instead he chose to bare his soul, and his sadness, to the world in the hope of drawing attention to the seriousness of COVID-19.
His worst fears were realized Monday. His mother, Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, died from complications of the virus at age 59.
Towns announced in a 5½-minute Instagram video several weeks ago that his mom had contracted the virus and was on a ventilator.
“I wanted to make this video so that people understand that the severity of this disease is real,” he said. “This disease needs to not be taken lightly. Please protect your families, your loved ones, your friends, yourself. Practice social distancing. Please don’t be in places with a lot of people.”
Imagine the strength required to sit down in a chair and shoot that video. It was Towns’ most impactful act as a member of the Timberwolves because his video has been viewed nearly 2 million times in the face of a global crisis.
Towns has a large platform as an NBA star. His words carry weight because that’s the nature of professional sports. You might not agree with athletes being granted that platform to opine on important topics, but they have it and Towns used his influence to try and help others while dealing with his own personal heartbreak.
That says a lot about the man.
Towns previously had announced he is donating $100,000 to Mayo Clinic to help the fight against coronavirus. That says a lot about him, too.
No loss of life is sadder than any other, but Gov. Tim Walz was correct when he noted that tragedy tends to resonate when it involves people in the public eye. People see Towns on the basketball court. They feel that connection as fans, they like him and so his mother’s death touches people because of the way they feel about her son. Tributes from people who knew her credit Jacqueline as being a wonderful mom.
This pandemic continues to stir emotions. I alternate between being antsy with being stuck at home, worried about family members and my job, and appreciative for being healthy and safe. And saddened by awful news that never seems to end. News that former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson died in a car wreck Sunday night added to it.
There are days when this all still feels so surreal. Like many, I want a return to normalcy. Or a new normal, at least. Part of that is sports. I miss watching sports and writing about them in a context other than this dreadful virus.
But self-quarantine is teaching a master course in patience and perspective. The pandemic does not come with an expiration date, which strips away our ability to control how we live. The only thing we can control is staying home. That part matters.
Towns made that plea in his video before his mother died. Many people heard his words and I’m hoping took social distancing more seriously because this crisis affects everybody, not just some of us. That was one of his goals in sharing such private details.
News of his mom’s death spurred messages of support from around the sports world. Hopefully he finds comfort from that.
I watched his video again Monday. He looked sad and worried but also resolute.
“I hope my story helps,” he said. “I hope my story gives you the correct information.”
He expressed optimism that his mom would survive, noting that he looked forward to “rejoicing” when she does. Sadly, his family won’t get to experience that with her.
His message still resonates, though. His story helps if we’re willing to listen.