Racism is a problem in this country. It always has been. It may well be a problem for the rest of eternity.
So when Steven Adams refers to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as “quick little monkeys,” yeah, some eyebrows are going to be raised.
By now you’ve seen Adams’ comment and you’ve read his apology. Which, on the surface, it seems sincere. His explanation, while not being an excuse, is that he is from New Zealand and because of that he made a poor choice of words.
And it makes sense. Although New Zealand has had its own racial tensions in the past, racism is explicitly banned in the country after the Human Rights act of 1993 was passed. Racial tensions do not often arise in New Zealand because of the bill and the country has one of the better handles around the world on racism.
But lets call it for what it is. What Adams said was bad. That’s something that cannot, under any circumstances, happen. Let alone on national television. The racial tensions the United States has had over the last, I don’t know, four centuries are well documented around the world. The language used to degrade human beings, particularly black human beings, is very well documented. Among that language is the loaded term “monkey.”
With that being said, racism is about intent. Did Adams intend to be racist? I’m not sure. Adams seems like a good person. He’s never had any situation like this and, frankly, doesn’t have many podium games where someone is looking for comment from him in particular.
But I’ll also say this: While Adams may not be a racist, we should not be so quick to jump to the conclusion that his culture had something to do with his poor word choice. Because, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen racism affect people all over the world. And, sure, New Zealand does have laws against all types of discrimination, but that does not mean racism does not exist in the country. Adams may well be one of those racist people.
We can only judge off of what we have, and all we have is his one mistake. He was obviously searching for something to compare the Warriors’ guards to. Their quickness is quite a feat to behold. But just after the heat of battle, it’s probably tough to come up with the proper description for that on the fly. That’s why athletes are taught to use cliches when dealing with the media. Candor and transparency can often lead to disagreements and controversy in these situations.
I’ll be honest — as a black man, I did give a side eye to my television screen during the interview. But that’s because it’s what I’ve been programmed to do. Skepticism and cynicism are embedded in me because of my country’s history, so for those of you who ask if the cause for concern is necessary, there’s your answer.
But Adams should not be considered a racist because of one utterance. One mistake does not change the color of one’s character. At least it shouldn’t. It honestly does not matter what people think of him on the outside. He and his teammates know what his true colors are and we cannot claim to be experts on that.
And, look, most people are not even bothered by this. They shouldn’t be. Our sensibilities are that of our own. If someone is bothered by it, I can’t blame them. The country’s history is the source of that. But if you’re not, that’s fine too. There’s nothing that says you have to be.
J Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic said it well enough. What Adams said doesn’t really mean anything, and no one should be able to tell you it does — especially not in this situation where mainstream white media are quick to flaunt their support of diversity on something that ultimately doesn’t matter.
But at the same time, we cannot make judgement one way or another on who Adams is as a person because of this. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t care. The bottom line is that there are bad people who good things happen to every day. How we feel about those people are our choices and our choices alone.