Steven Adams learns a quick lesson in American racial politics
Steven Grizzly Adams is a center for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is from New Zealand. Monkeys are not native to that nation. So when he called the Golden State Warriors guards “quick little monkeys” after his team’s 108-102 victory Monday in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, it didn’t sound great.
Calling people, specifically black people, “monkeys” is certainly a faux pas in today’s polite society, because it’s a lazy metaphor that a) makes no sense scientifically and b) is insulting. Just take a look at a soccer game happening anywhere on the globe save this continent, and you’ll find people making howling noises and throwing bananas at black players. This is not new. But there’s a history of commentators saying that word in this country, as well.
But Adams is a Kiwi. I’m willing to give him a pass for not understanding the true nature of his comments, even if they were insensitive. From a more basketball-oriented standpoint, they’re also inaccurate. Stephen Curry is not a tough monkey — he’s the first and only unanimous MVP of the NBA.
“It was just a poor choice of words, mate. I wasn’t thinking straight,” Adams said to USA Today. I didn’t know it was going to upset anyone, but I’m truly sorry. It was just a poor choice of words. I was just trying to express how difficult it was chasing those guys around. … Different words, different expressions, and stuff like that. But they obviously can be taken differently, depending on which country you’re in. I’m assimilating, mate, still trying to figure out the boundaries. But I definitely overstepped them tonight.”
Fair enough. Dude showed up to the U.S. in 2011. Delving into the whole racial history of New Zealand, which isn’t great, isn’t particularly necessary, as Adams doesn’t represent his whole nation, necessarily. He was just a tired dude having trouble keeping up with the best backcourt in the league. The apology was genuine, and everyone learned something.