OKC Announcer: “Westbrook Is Out Of His Cotton Pickin’ Mind.”

    Russell Westbrooks multi-faceted ball skills often defy logic. Usually, his feats just leave fans speechless. Sometimes announcers cant find the proper superlatives to shower Westbrook with. Oklahoma City Thunder TV play-by-play announcer Brian Davis is one of those guys and hes no doubt regretting his choice of words. 

    After watching Westbrook turn a steal into points with a sweet assist en route to a second straight season averaging a triple-double,  Davis said, Westbrook is out of his cotton pickin mind.

    ANNOUNCER SAYS “WESTBROOK IS OUT OF HIS COTTON PICKING MIND” OKC VS GRIZZLIES

    Uploaded by J&N Highlights on 2018-04-12.

    Huh? 

    I had to double take when I heard it. I wondered if people would recognize this term that was implemented by white colonizers back in the days of slavery.  Everyone heard it, especially people of color. It was a terrible look for Davis who immediately was taken to task by Twitter.  

    ’11 on Twitter

    Brian Davis (announcer)- “Westbrook is out of his cotton pickin mind!” https://t.co/ypn7VHq54N

    We Play For That Gold Boss on Twitter

    Announcer for the OKC game just said “Westbrook is out of his cotton picking mind” https://t.co/ZebdYqn40V

    Of course, Davis had his white defenders who explain the phrase as just part of history or a common term that applies to everyone, but nah B. 

    Eric Fultz on Twitter

    @GabeIkard @ZSanchez15 I’m a 49 year old white guy from Dallas. It’s a common phrase I grew up with. Never once thought of it as racist… On top of that, my grandparents grew up picking cotton in West Texas. They had pictures of themselves in the cotton fields. Non issue.

    The phrase is known for being racially insensitive and can be found in bustle.coms list of 5 Racist English Phrases With A Seriously Awful History

    The phrase “are you out of your cotton-picking mind?” seems to have a serious racial overtone, particularly against black slaves in the Southern United States, who were the pickers of cotton for much of American history. Cotton-picking is usually used as a stand-in for “damn,” to make it more socially acceptable than swearing (ironically enough). If you’re not from the South, you may have heard the adjective “cotton-picking” for the first time from a Bugs Bunny cartoon from 1952.

    Linguist Gary Martin over at The Phrase Finder has found that “cotton-picking” is actually a pretty old term, dating back to the first European cotton plantations in the 1700s, but that it only really showed up as an adjective in the 1940s. And in the examples he found, it referred to Southerners in general, not just blacks. But as a massive debate over the use of the phrase in Canadian parliament in 2011 shows, many still believe that to ask somebody to “wait just a cotton-picking minute” is to make a derogatory link between a slave occupation and a modern expression of frustration. Obviously, it’s not difficult to see why.

    There’s yet another variety on the phrase: To call somebody a “cotton-picker” is undeniably, completely racist.

    Understanding the culture of the players that you are coaching, managing or covering is part of the job. Davis, a long-time vet should have known better than to use a phrase that in any way conjures images of slavery or a time when Black folks were treated as subhuman. 

    Davis doesnt get a pass for not knowing the origins of cotton-pickin. Or reasoning that it was a phrase used all the time where he grew up. The bottom line is that it’s a slave term. People should know not to publicly use that term the same way they should know that the Cleveland Indians logo is offensive to Native Americans and not to say the N-word or compare black athletes to monkeys or gorillas. These things are understood and when a super pro like Davis chooses to use off-limit words as if its cool to say it, we see how far we really have to go as a country to eliminate racism. Its so ingrained in our everyday lives that some white folks are racist even when trying to compliment a person of color. 

    JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.