Given his history, it was only a matter of time before Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling said or did something to land himself in hot water again. Despite the fact that he has– inexplicably– been honored by organizations such as the NAACP, and was actually set to receive a lifetime achievement award again, Sterling has a long history of– oh, how shall we put it– racially insensitive views? This latest flare up is just that– the latest flare up. Anybody who knows the first thing about Sterling knows his lengthy history of bigotry.
What this flare up has done though, is take the focus off of the Clippers as they’ve followed up a pretty sensational regular season– one of the best in franchise history as a matter of fact– with a possible and legitimate shot at an NBA title. Instead of answering questions about their play on the floor, or their hard scrapping first round playoff battle with the Golden State Warriors, the players are being forced to answer questions about Sterling and what they think about his racially charged comments. It has to make focusing on the task at hand, a hard fought playoff battle, that much more difficult.
We’d be naïve to think that racism doesn’t still exist– even in the world of professional sports. Despite the fact that people from a myriad of different ethnicities and upbringings compete with and against each other in a variety of different sports, there are still those who harbor resentment for no reason other than the color of somebody’s skin. Sometimes it’s based in simple ignorance, and buying into racial stereotypes. Other times though, it’s based in malice for people of other ethnicities. Racism is unfortunately, still alive and well. Hopefully one day, sooner rather than later, we’ll be able to say otherwise as it does nothing to keep us, as a people, divided and at odds.
So, while the Donald Sterling drama plays out, and the NBA figures out the best way to force Sterling out of ownership of the Clippers, let’s take a look back at some of the more outrageously offensive and racist moments in professional sports.
And before anybody takes umbrage, this is by no means, a comprehensive list. We’re just throwing out some of the more egregious offenses…
10. Marge Schott
Marge Schott proves once again that having a pile of money can’t buy decency or class. The crotchety and cantankerous former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Schott was well known for being outspoken, and for always courting controversy. Well, back in 1993, ol’ Marge crossed the racial Rubicon when she referred to her star players, Eric Davis and Dave Parker, as her “million dollar n*****s.” It wasn’t the first time she made outlandishly racist remarks, nor would it be the last. When it came to denigrating minorities, Schott was an equal opportunity offender. Not only that, but Schott was well known for espousing positive views of Adolf Hitler, famously saying, “He was good in the beginning, but went too far.” Given her views of minorities, one has to wonder at what point Schott thinks Hitler crossed that line. Schott finally got to be too much of a distraction and nuisance for the league, and in 1999, under pressure by Major League Baseball, Schott sold her controlling interest in the Reds. We didn’t hear much from Marge again until 2004 when she died. We’re guessing that Eric Davis and Dave Parker didn’t attend the funeral.
9. Fuzzy Zoeller
The game of golf has long battled the image of it being a sport strictly for wealthy white men. Country clubs around the nation certainly haven’t helped alter that image with some of their discriminatory policies based on somebody’s gender, or the color of their skin. Given what we know about some of the more “prestigious” clubs around the country, it’s not really all that difficult to see where that image came from.
However, with the emergence– and dominance– of Tiger Woods, the world of golf was forced to re-evaluate some of its views and positions. Well, for the most part anyway. Longtime PGA tour veteran Fuzzy Zoeller apparently didn’t appreciate the fact that Woods, a minority, intruded upon his beloved sport– and dominated it. Following Woods win at the prestigious Masters tournament, Zoeller was asked about the show Tiger had put on– and promptly showed why golf has such an image problem. Zoeller, referring to the long standing tradition of the tournament’s winner setting the menu for the following year’s tournament, said, “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it? Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”
And some people wonder why so many think golf is an elitist, racist sport?
8. Jason Whitlock
ESPN writer Jason Whitlock has never been one who is afraid to voice his opinions. Even sometimes controversial ones. But there is a line between giving voice to a strong opinion, and perpetuating racially insensitive stereotypes and Whitlock absolutely blew through it.
As “Linsanity,” the hyped up craze that surrounded then-New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin exploded, he obviously caught the attention of the world. As one of the few Asian-Americans to play in the NBA, Lin seemingly came out of nowhere and set the league on fire.
On a night that Lin dropped 38 on the Los Angeles Lakers, Whitlock took to Twitter to “acknowledge” Lin’s terrific performance. In perhaps what was supposed to be a “congratulatory” message, Whitlock Tweeted out, “Some lucky lady in NYC is going to be feeling a couple of inches of pain tonight.”
See what he did there? He played off that whole stereotype of Asians having small privates to make a funny. Hilarious, wasn’t it? Using racial stereotypes to belittle somebody actually isn’t funny. And it’s not clever. What it is though, is ignorant and stupid. And a writer of Whitlock’s caliber and talent should know better than that.
Apparently though, he doesn’t. In his “apology” for the incident, Whitlock said, “I debased a feel-good sports moment. For that, I’m truly sorry.” Notice what’s missing? An apology to Lin– and all people of Asian descent– for using a stereotype about the size of their junk to appear clever and witty. Classy.
7. Rob Parker
A columnist for the Detroit Free Press and commentator on ESPN, Rob Parker fanned the flames of controversy for his remarks about Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III. In December 2012, Parker appeared on ESPN’s “First Take,” and had this to say about the young signal caller:
“Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother? … He’s not real. OK, he’s black, he kind of does the thing, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black but he’s not really, like, the guy you want to hang out with because he’s off to something else.”
Some people say that Parker’s comments were actually not racist in nature. However, when you are speaking about somebody’s ethnicity, when you are judging a person based on their race– specifically, whether they are or aren’t this or that, it crosses that line into outright racism. Parker’s questioning of whether or not RGIII is “black enough” or is truly “a brother,” made it racist commentary. Parker has expressed surprise that anybody could construe his remarks to be racist in tone but conceded how he could see how some people might “take it out of context and run with it.” Which of course, is his way of avoiding any responsibility and shifting the blame entirely to people with an ax to grind.
Parker was suspended for 30 days for his remarks, but ESPN later declined to bring him back at all.
6. John Rocker
You didn’t think that Rocker wouldn’t make this list did you? When he was a member of the Braves, during one of the very few seasons he was even relevant, Rocker gave an interview to Sports Illustrated that was quite possibly, one of the most racist, homophobic, and sexist things ever published in SI. Rocker bashed literally everybody with his screed in that interview. One of the most memorable passages of course, was this little gem in which he blasted the city of New York– and everybody in it:
“I’d retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you’re riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing… The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”
That interview was the beginning of the end for Rocker. He never seemed to be the same after taking the beating he did following that diatribe. But, showing that he’s just a knucklehead who didn’t learn a thing from his experience, a few years later, as a member of the Cleveland Indians– and still not pitching worth a damn– when asked about his teammate Randall Simon, Rocker referred to him as a “fat monkey.” And Rocker wonders why nobody likes him very much.
5. Jimmy the Greek
Vegas oddsmaker Jimmy the Greek had been a popular personality on CBS’ NFL Pregame show on Sunday mornings for quite a long time. He had a rough around the edges, everyman sort of persona that football fans really liked. He had a reputation for his bold and unvarnished views and opinions. It’s all part of what made him so popular. Unfortunately, those very things that made him so popular also led to his ultimate downfall.
In 1988, Jimmy got off on one of the most astounding racist rants in sports history. Perhaps he thought he was paying black athletes a compliment, or perhaps he just wasn’t thinking at all. But Jimmy detailed why he believed that black athletes were superior to their white counterparts. He said:
“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way, because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade … the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.”
And he said this on live television. One can only speculate about how many pairs of soiled underpants there were in the CBS Television production room as this went on. Not surprisingly, Jimmy the Greek never appeared on television again after that.
4. Shaquille O’Neal
Everybody loves Shaquille O’Neal for his playful, oftentimes childlike personality. He seems to have a good time doing everything he does. It’s all part of his charm. Unfortunately, it also lets him get away with a lot of things that he should probably be held to account for. Instead, most people just laugh it off as, “Shaq being Shaq.” One such instance was in 2002, when he was asked about the league’s newest sensation, Houston Rockets center Yao Ming. Perhaps feeling a bit overshadowed, and like Yao was maybe stealing a little bit of the limelight he believed belonged to him, Shaq responded to the reporter’s question by saying, “Tell Yao Ming, ‘Ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-so.”
Nobody ever accused Shaq of being an intellectual heavyweight or particularly mature. But even by the lowest of standards, his racially charged mockery of Yao’s heritage is a little below the belt. No doubt he thought he was being funny and witty, but then, so did Marge Schott, Jason Whitlock, and a host of other people who’ve gone off on racially insensitive tirades. Just ask them.
3. Howard Cosell
To many a sports fan, it’s nearly sacrilege to speak ill of Howard Cosell. He’s a broadcasting icon and legend in the field. In 1993, TV Guide even ranked him the best sportscaster of all time. There is no doubt that Cosell had a style all his own. He was brash, arrogant, could be condescending, and could sometimes be mean. But was he also a racist? There is some debate about this point, and many argue that during Cosell’s heydey, the world was a different place so it’s unfair to hold him to today’s standards. But truly, is decency a generational thing?
It was during a Monday Night Football broadcast in September 1983 when talking about Washington Redskins receiver Alvin Garrett, a black athlete, that Cosell found himself mired in a little bit of controversy. During the course of the game, Cosell said about the speedy wide receiver, “That little monkey gets loose, doesn’t he?!” Though Cosell was denounced for his remarks from a wide cross-section of people, he stubbornly refused to apologize and pointed to the fact that he’d used the term “little monkey” as a term of endearment not just for black athletes, but for white athletes, and for his grandson as well. To be fair, 10 years earlier, he got off an equally edgy remark about Redskins running back Her Mul-key, also a black athlete, when he said, “Look at that little monkey run!”
Perhaps Cosell didn’t intend for it to be derogatory in nature. Perhaps he didn’t intend it as a racial slur. But for a man of Cosell’s intelligence, knowing the history of that word, and its connotations, he really should have known better. But Cosell always did things his own way, and in typical Cosell fashion, gave a hearty “screw you,” to everybody who voiced opposition to his remarks and left the broadcast booth following that season.
2. Wayne Simmonds/Dani Alves
Showing that racism isn’t necessarily limited to those on the field, court, or in the owner’s box, hockey fans in London, Ontario, decided to get in on the act. When the Philadelphia Flyers traveled to Canada for a preseason game with the Detroit Red Wings, the fans in London showed that they can be among the biggest racist idiots on the planet. When Flyer winger Simmonds, who is black, skated in on Detroit goalie Jordan Pearce during a shootout, an idiot in the stands lobbed a banana down onto the ice. Though he later admitted to being rattled during the incident, Simmonds still managed to get off a shot and score on Pearce– the only score during the shootout.
To his credit, Simmonds didn’t spend much time dwelling on the idiocy of somebody in the stands. He said:
“It was unfortunate that this incident happened but I am above this sort of stuff. This is something that is obviously out of my control. Moving forward, this incident is something that I will no longer comment on so I can just focus playing hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers.”
Simmonds took the high road and showed his class in the matter. It’s really unfortunate that some bigoted idiots can’t learn to do the same.
Sadly, a very similar incident just played out this week with Dani Alves, of the Barcelona soccer team, and he chose to eat the banana, then assist in a goal. Good for him.
1. Floyd “Money” Mayweather
He may be pound for pound, the toughest boxer alive, but brain cell for brain cell, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, can also be considered the biggest idiot on the planet. We get that boxing is a testosterone-fueled sport. We get that you have to have that macho swagger and bravado before a fight. But do you really have to be a classless, bigoted buffoon too? Because that’s exactly what Mayweather was when talking about Manny Pacquiao— a boxer he has yet to get in the ring with. In a video that he inexplicably posted to the internet, Mayweather gets off on one unbelievably moronic and racist tirade. In the video he said:
“As soon as we come off vacation, we’re going to cook that little yellow chump. We ain’t worried about that. So they ain’t gotta worry about me fighting the midget. Once I kick the midget ass, I don’t want you all to jump on my d—. So you all better get on the bandwagon now. … Once I stomp the midget, I’ll make that mother f—– make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice.”
It’s really hard to know where exactly to start with all of the bigoted idiocy in this one statement. Suffice it to say that Mayweather may be worth millions upon millions, but he is completely bankrupt when it comes to grace, class, common sense and intelligence. His PR people should really be more involved.