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Opinion: The Redick Situation

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JJ Redick has come under fire after accusations of using a racial slur.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

During last weekend’s All-Star festivities, a video emerged of various NBA personnel wishing a happy Chinese New Year to NBA fans celebrating the holiday. JJ Redick is featured in the video, and his fumbling of words have lead some to believe Redick used a racial slur.

Had Redick said the word, outrage would be warranted. As a white male in his early 20’s, I won’t even begin to pretend like I understand the amount of hurt that could be felt in hearing something meant to be so demeaning.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t believe Redick ever said it.

I have listened to Redick’s portion of the video countless times, and I don’t hear it. I hear something that ends in the sound of a “G”, not a “K.” I can see how some might think they heard it. I can understand why people who have been told he has said it prior to watching, would hear it. But listening to it the first time, and everytime after, I firmly believe Redick’s explanation that he changed his wording mid-thought from “NBA Chinese fans” to “NBA fans in China.” And what we hear is a jumbling of phonetic sounds, not an intentionally formed word or Freudian slip that was a racial slur.

And to be honest, I think some of the people making accusations have some bias against the player to believe JJ Redick said “I just want to wish all of the NBA chink fans in China a very happy Chinese New Year.” Not only is that highly offensive, I’m not entirely sure it even makes sense.

I also believe that the Sixers organization never heard him say the word either. After reaching out to the organization for comment, a 76ers spokesman told me the following:

“We have discussed the situation with JJ Redick at length and fully accept his explanation. We recognize no intent on his part to offend or disrespect. We also spoke to the parties involved with the video shoot, who do not believe this to be an intentional comment and did not identify any issue at the time of filming or in the production process.

Over the course of his career, JJ has proven himself to be a great ambassador for the game of basketball and for our organization. We encourage him to continue to use his platform to do good in our communities, and to positively impact fans all over the world.”

I get it. The team is going to have Redick’s back. But this is a pretty firm stance. There is a way to have a player’s back yet admit fault on the player. But the statement above doesn’t do that. Compare it to the statement the organization made about Jahlil Okafor’s Boston nightclub episode:

“Jahlil is a very important part of our organization and our future. While we are disappointed with his recent actions, we have faith in him as a valued member of the Sixers. We will provide the necessary resources to support him on his journey and will do our part to help him succeed both on and off the court.”

The statement regarding Okafor displays admittance of a mistake. The statement regarding Redick displays trust of the player’s explanation of misunderstanding.

You don’t have to take my word for it nor JJ Redick’s nor the Sixers’. But to believe JJ Redick issued a slur, you have to believe some of the following:

JJ Redick made a Freudian slip expressing deep rooted hatred for the Chinese OR that he intentionally wanted to insult and disrespect an entire culture of over a billion people. He chose to do so in a video produced exclusively for people who identify as of Chinese ethnicity or at least who celebrate the Chinese New Year. The staff present for Tencent, the Chinese company who produced the video, heard him say it and included it in the video anyway, or did not hear him say it. Members of the Sixers PR staff heard him say it and allowed it to be distributed anyway, or they too did not hear him say it. In the case neither group heard him say it, it was still somehow said. (?) And finally, after unintentionally uttering the word, or intentionally dropping it, Redick decided to allow it to be produced without asking to re-record the comments.

None of that makes any sense for the parties involved.

Everything I know about JJ Redick (which admittedly, is nowhere near enough to make a conclusive description about what a person is like behind the curtain because really, we can never know) tells me he is not the sort of person to have racially charged feelings of disdain for others. It also doesn’t make much sense for a person with the public profile of Redick to float racist remarks in a video endorsed by, you know, himself, his employers, the NBA and a multinational entertainment conglomerate (Tencent).

Ultimately, I believe what you hear in the video can be heard as a racial slur if you want it to. But it simply is not what was said, and to continue to attack Redick’s reputation is, at best, irresponsible.

I will be checking the comments periodically if anyone wants to call me an idiot or start a dialogue. If you are not a commenter, feel free to email me at Kevin.Francis.Love (at) gmail.com if you would like to express your feelings about the situation to me.