Friday, April 15, 2005

Why Can't O'Neal Ask Questions?

By Scoop Jackson,

Let's say there was no color issue; let's say everyone in America was green. Green like the dollar bill. Green with envy.

Now let's say there's a group of people, all green, all American, standing at a bus stop on their way to work. The bus pulls up, driver opens the door and the bus driver says, "Good morning everyone! You all know the drill ... dark green people to the back, light green people sit in the front."

Jermaine O'Neal's taking a lot of heat -- for simply asking questions.

At some point we all knew it would come to this. But it didn't have to come to this. The "R." Racism. The word. Groundhogged it's ugly little head again. This time out of the mouth of Jermaine O'Neal. His words inexact: "Racism is part of the NBA's [David Stern's] reason to implement an age restriction on entering the league." I'm paraphrasing. But the point is out. And once out, it stays out, like the cork on the Verve Cliquot.

Somewhere in Toronto, outside the U.S., Jermaine O'Neal got caught off guard, and caught up. Someone asked him a question. An American question. Unparaphrasing. "Is it because you guys are black that the league is trying to put an age limit on the draft?"

The question demanded an answer. A real one. Not one of those scripted, toeing-the-company-line responses. So Jermaine gave the Charles Barkley answer. The Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman-on-Larry Bird answer. He gave the answer that many needed to hear, but hundreds were afraid to say. For lack of misunderstanding and misquotes, O'Neal basically called David Stern's intent to mandate an age requirement for induction into the NBA race related.

Then came the drama.

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