Alley-oops! NBA China drops the ball over J.J. Redick racial slur storm as sorry seems to be the hardest word
An apology from the Philadelphia 76ers star was needed much sooner, and the NBA’s silence over the issue is stunning
Whether you believe J.J. Redick had nothing to apologise for, it should not have taken him nearly 12 hours to say the magic word “sorry” after initially not bothering when he addressed the racial slur storm he caused with Chinese NBA fans.
The Philadelphia 76ers star said he got “tongue-tied” when trying to wish NBA fans in China a Happy New Year in a compilation video of players put together by tech giant Tencent.
He appeared to say the word “chink” and somehow nobody at the Chinese media company caught the gaffe, nor did any of the 76ers PR team who were also in the room filming the clip.
Nor seemingly did anyone at NBA China, who surely must have reviewed the video before it was made public. If not, then it is an unacceptable oversight on their part.
Tencent reworked the video to cut out Redick’s part, but the damage was done and angry Chinese fans flooded Twitter demanding an apology from Redick and accusing him of racism.
Understandably, many of the tweets called for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA China to comment, but they were met with silence.
Instead, Jeremy Lin – the NBA’s first Chinese-American player – stepped in to play peacemaker and address the situation, coming to Redick’s defence after speaking with him on the phone for “a long time”.
“I truly believe he [Redick] didn’t say a racial slur and that he has a great deal of respect towards Chinese people,” wrote Brooklyn Nets guard Lin, in a statement posted to Twitter.
It appears this conversation with Lin finally prompted Redick to utter those two magic words – “I’m sorry” – but it shouldn’t have taken that.
No doubt Silver was busy with the annual All-Star showcase game on Sunday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but he should have been straight on the phone to Redick to order an apology as soon as the video surfaced online earlier that morning.
Where was NBA China CEO David Shoemaker in all of this, too? Sadly, sorry seems to be the hardest word for everyone involved.
It is revealing Lin said he reached out to Silver and Shoemaker to express his concerns, suggesting he did not feel they had done enough to address the incident.
“Everyone knows that this word should never be used in referring to Chinese people and everyone is committed to Chinese fans being treated with the equality and respect they deserve,” said Lin.
“Being Chinese is so important to me and I will do everything I can to work with the NBA to help continue [to] teach fans about the depth and beauty of Chinese culture and the importance of China to basketball culture,” he added.
It was noble on Lin’s part to step in and help given the influence he has, but he shouldn’t have to be the one putting out the PR fires.
The NBA still hasn’t addressed the situation and that is unacceptable – clearly they are just hoping it all blows over as they continue their programme of Chinese New Year celebrations.
But if you’re going to court the Chinese market and chase people’s money, you need to be held accountable for colossal slip-ups like this.
After all, it says a lot that while Fergie felt the need to apologise for her confusing and amusing rendition of the national anthem before the All-Star game, the NBA has been happy to stay silent over a far more important matter.