On Tuesday afternoon, Warriors backup center JaVale McGee posted what was ostensibly an innocent Instagram post about the hairstyle he’ll be wearing into the new year. The unique hairstyle, naturally, gained the attention from ex-NBA center Shaquille O’Neal, who has built a segment on TNT’s “Inside The NBA” on the strength of the gaffes in McGee’s career.
Shaq, who recently offered to keep McGee off ‘Shaqtin’ A Fool’for the next five episodes if he could not make a Shaqtin’ worthy mistake in his next three games, couldn’t resist a quick joke.
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 3, 2017
O’Neal’s response was demure when compared against grating comments left on his Instagram post, but that didn’t stop McGee from responding to O’Neal with an over-the-top and unnecessary shot, comparing the Hall of Famer to a Minstrel character.
— Javale McGee (@JaValeMcGee34) January 4, 2017
While McGee has the understandable right to be annoyed with O’Neal constantly finding new ways to poke fun at the center, comparing O’Neal to Bert Williams is an incredibly low blow, to both O’Neal and Williams.
Williams, an immigrant from the Bahamas, helped pave the way for the black actors and musicians helping to create much of the culture consumed in this country today. Like many black entertainers in the early 20th Century, he was forced into playing villains and the role of the “coon” if he was to get work during an epoch full of Minstrel and Vaudeville shows. Despite this, he was wildly respected by his peers of any race and eventually became the first black man to earn the lead role on a Broadway stage.
Williams was a pioneer who died at a young age because of the stress and depression that came with paving the way for those who would come later.
In some ways, O’Neal paved the way for McGee. Not just as a basketball player, but as a fun loving, free spirited human in what can sometimes be a dour NBA. While O’Neal isn’t blameless here (it’s frustrating watching those outside of the culture take shots at black hair, and O’Neal certainly aided this in a public space), but the idea that you can take someone like Williams, and turn his career into a negative mark in the history of black men and women working to make things better for the next generation is the wrong way to get back at O’Neal.
Hopefully, the tweet is deleted and a public apology is delivered. It’s never fun seeing black men tear each other down, and it’s worse when we use such sour ways to do so. With that said, this isn’t the place to tear McGee down, either, but rather an opportunity for a teaching moment for one of the more fun NBA players, both on and off the court.