The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a rough 2019-20 campaign. On the court, the team has struggled, going 10-27 and 2.5-games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks for the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Off of it, the team has reportedly been dealing with locker room discord that prominently involves the approach of first-time NBA head coach John Beilein.
While much of the rumblings haven’t necessarily mentioned any specific instances, a new report by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN brings to light a moment from a film session on Wednesday in which Beilein, in an attempt to praise his team’s run of form, said the group was no longer playing like “a bunch of thugs.”
Beilein had been wrapping up what had been an off-day film session in Detroit and a hush fell over the room when his players and staff heard the words come out of his mouth, sources said.
The Cavaliers players left the room initially stunned and were increasingly disturbed as they dispersed out of the meeting, league sources said.
The incident was brought to the attention of general manager Koby Altman, who reportedly spoke to the team’s coach and is looking into what happen, while Beilein claims that he misspoke and meant to use the word “slugs.”
“I didn’t realize that I had said the word “thugs,” but my staff told me later I did and so I must have said it,” Beilein told ESPN. “I meant to say slugs, as in slow moving. We weren’t playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That’s what I was trying to say. I’ve already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand.”
Naturally, a white person referring to a group largely composed of black men as “a bunch of thugs,” even if it was an accident, is a major problem. And again, this is the latest moment in what has been a tumultuous season in Cleveland, as rumblings that his 40 years of collegiate experience made him out of touch with what NBA players need in a coach had already existed. The Cavs are slated to play Detroit on Thursday, and we’ll keep you updated on whether Beilein faces any repercussions for this.