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Steven Adams Gets No Pass For His Monkey Business

Responsible black journalists have an obligation to address any issue or incident in which our race is being disregarded, disrespected, challenged or disparaged, even if everyone is saying, its not a big deal.

Responsible black journalists have an obligation to address any issue or incident in which our race is being disregarded, disrespected, challenged or disparaged, even if everyone is saying, its not a big deal.

When my grandma used to go clothes shopping, she got spied on and followed around the mall by white retail workers. My grandpa knew he could afford it so he would tell her to ignore it, Its no big deal.

She would reply: Lynching n**gers wasnt a big deal either at first.

And shes right.


On Monday, following Oklahoma City’s 108-102 victory over Golden State, Thunder center Steven Adams described the difficulty he had as a big man chasing the Warriors guards around the court by calling them “quick little monkeys.”


There are some folks who think ESPN’s Chris Broussard should have back-handed Adams on the spot (He’s not built like that though)

I got a call from a local basketball coach and friend of mine who runs the famed basketball training program Team Footprintz and he is not taking those comments lightly  After listening to the coach, who is also a former educator and H.S. Dean and a constant mentor to young African-American men, I had to come back and put Adams on blast because the story should be reported through the eyes of the people who are affected by it.  We have to continue be the voice for those who cant be seen or heard on a large platform.

Coach Mark Williams posted the following to me on Facebook: The fact he is NOT american is not legit. He attended high school and college in the states and been in the NBA for 3-5 years… He knows how to conduct himself… Billy Packer apologized but was fired.. Wrong is wrong regardless of saying – “sorry”… but the main point is NOT one civic or athlete “leader” has said anything in the public… Rondo got suspended for calling a ref a “faggot”… the media supported the NBA, but not this?… Odd


Williams sees a double standard when it comes to acceptable use of offensive language towards African-American people and on the heels of the Donald Sterling situation, this can’t be tolerated.

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NBA’s Responsibility  vs. Our Responsibility 


If just one person was offended by Adams comment, despite his apology, he should be suspended for one game. We have to at least hear from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Ignorance to the law has never been a defense and anyone with common sense knows not to reference black athletes and monkeys in the same sentence. Adams doesnt live in a bubble.The NBA is no comedy show.  For many black kids in America, it’s the blueprint in standard of living, behavior and achievement that many young athletes strive to attain. 

Does being from New Zealand really give him a pass? His band of black brothers didnt hip him to the dos and donts of white ballers in a 75% black NBA?

It is very odd how the NBA and media outlets quickly tried to sweep this under the rug. Ill admit, it almost got past me. The hypnotic addiction of playoff basketball will do that too you. Adams may not be fined or suspended for his comments, but the NBA should know his words didnt fall on deaf ears.

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Our own Ricardo Hazell, a fierce proponent of the black struggle in America and a leading writer on social commentary in this country, gave him a pass, attributing the comment to a cross-cultural misunderstanding, being that Adams hails from New Zealand and may not have understood the cultural backlash that describing African-American ball players as monkeys could incite.

Most of the journalists across the country probably felt the same way Hazell did about the comment, as many social media reactions were forgiving.



It wasn’t quite as jarring as when legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell had his “monkey” mash up. Cosell  called many people from his grand kids to white players little monkeys during his telecasts. It wasn’t an assault on the black race but it did little to ease the disrespect felt by many African-Americans. However, his relationship with Muhammad Ali and his reputation as a groundbreaking Jewish announcer and pop culture icon, earned him a “pass.”


In Adams’ case, most expressed the fact that, he hasnt been in the country that long as an excuse for giving him the same pass. What can you really expect? Its been rumored in certain amateur and pro football and basketball locker rooms, that certain white players are actually given a pass to say the N-word.    

This is indeed another example of cultures crossing. 

Hazell said: I recall Mike Meyers in the film Austin Powers calling someone a cheeky little monkey and have heard it mentioned often in British or Australian comedies with absolutely no racial connotation intended.

Additionally, Adams plays a sport dominated by people of African descent and plays on a team whose best players are Black too. His faux pas can be forgiven as ignorance…at the end of the day, it’s all about intentions and I really don’t believe Steven Adams intended to say anything malicious.


Ricardo is usually the aggressor in these situations but something made him fall back and I respect his take. Overall, I think people just  dont want to mar the euphoria of a potentially all-time classic playoff series with discussions about race and bigotry.

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They are exhausted from the after effects of the Donald Sterling situation that nearly resulted in players boycotting the 2014 NBA playoffs and probably, selfishly want to stay away from a topic that inspires such emotion in people and detracts from the actual game.  

And people need to stop dismissing offensive behavior towards Black people. From the racial slurs at soccer matches to the social media attacks that still exist against The Williams Sisters and President Obama, to Donald Sterlings decades of institutionalized racism.  

So excuse me if we are a little froggy when Adams makes his monkey reference. If our supposed community leaders and advocates wont speak up because they are too busy chugging Johnny Walker in the luxury suite, then The Shadow League has to do it.


Its 2016. The hood isnt giving Adams a pass, so Im not either. I hope the NBA at least investigates the situation and sets some type of precedent — maybe a list of words you just don’t use in a nationally televised interview during the playoffs — to avoid situations like this from happening on national television again.


JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, 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.