The story about the Boston Celtics suspending their coach , Ime Udoka, for an entire season broke late last week. I purposely chose not to comment on it then for two reasons:
- It did not fit with the Football Friday format that was queued up
- I knew that I did not know enough about “the issues” here from the initial reporting.
Point #2 above pertained to almost all other commentators late last week, but it did not seem to deter many of them from jumping into the matter with both feet. Since the first reports, we have had a press conference featuring the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations and its majority owner explaining what the outcome here is. And even with that event and questioning at that event, we still do not really know what kicked this snowball over the cliff.
What we know is that Udoka admitted to having a “consensual intimate relationship” with a woman who is associated with the Celtics in some unexplained role. We are told he – and presumably the woman – were told to cut it out and Udoka says that he did. The woman also said that Udoka made “unwanted and threatening remarks” at some point in this saga. And for that, Ime Udoka will not coach the Boston Celtics for the upcoming NBA season.
I suspect we do not know the entirety of this matter even now. The basis for my suspicion here is that this punishment seems awfully severe for a “crime” that seems to be almost commonplace in modern workplaces. Office romances and trysts are not so rare that they are headline grabbing events and they are certainly not – in general – criminal events. And remember, what happened within the Celtics was labelled as “improper, intimate and consensual”. Therefore, I prefer to let this story simmer on the back-burner until I know a lot more facts about how we got from Udoka coaching the Celtics to the NBA Finals last year to getting himself suspended.
However, there is one aspect of this situation and the reporting/commentating that surrounded it. Ime Udoka is a Black male; that is a fact. However, that fact is not sufficient for a knee-jerk response to cast a racial overtone onto the matter. Let me say this clearly:
- I do not know if there is any element of racism at work here and I suspect that the commentators who rushed to include racism in this story do not know either.
- It is possible that this action is totally racially motivated by craven racists in the Celtics’ organization; it is also possible that race has nothing to do with this matter.
And spare me please form the protestations that this story has gotten more coverage than it would have if Udoka had been a White male. Really? Are you trying to tell me that when Urban Meyer (clearly Caucasian) was caught on tape dancing with a young woman – not his wife – in an Ohio nightclub last year that the story was buried? Have you forgotten the amount of coverage given to Rex Ryan and his wife (both Caucasians) and their foot-fetishism? In addition, I seem to recall a bit of coverage when Phil Jackson (certifiably Caucasian) and Jeanne Buss were “an item” while he was coaching the Lakers.
I know that Udoka has been severely sanctioned here and it will not surprise me even a little bit if he “resigns” from his position with the Celtics during the course of his suspension. But until I know a lot more about what happened and what transpired in the organization after whatever happened became known to people other than the parties in flagrante delicto, I will reserve judgement related to the rectitude of the punishment and/or any racist element that may or may not obtain.
Let me switch gears here and focus on another scandalous topic that involves a prominent sports figure. The Brett Favre/Southern Mississippi Volleyball venue epic has taken a dark turn. Since the start of the investigation in Mississippi into the misuse and misappropriation of monies intended for welfare recipients, Favre maintained that he was unaware of any improprieties and/or malevolent intentions; he was simply doing what he can do in Mississippi and that is to lend his name and his fame to a cause. Since I knew of no evidence to the contrary, I was prepared to take him at his word.
In the last week or so, however, reports have surfaced that Favre likely knew that what he was involved with and what he was doing was improper if not illegal. According to reports, in one text message exchange between Favre and the Governor at the time of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, Favre specifically wanted to know if anything about his involvement in the matter could become public. The then Governor assured him it would not be revealed because they do not make that sort of detailed information public. Ooops…
Favre has admitted that he received money he should not have received because he agreed to return it. There should be no attempt to put any nuance on the fact that he received money that he should not have. The far more troublesome part of this story is this exacta:
- It seems that Favre knew he was doing something wrong – – AND – –
- What he was doing involved diverting funds away from genuinely needy people in one of the poorest States in the country in order to build a volleyball venue at his alma mater where his daughter was a volleyball player.
If you do not regard that kind of behavior as cringeworthy, I would suggest that you are far too deeply immersed in athletic idolatry. This situation is a whole lot worse than “bad optics”…
Finally, you know that you have done something stupid when you become part of a headline at The Onion:
“Brett Favre defends use of state welfare money to build shelter for homeless volleyballs.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………