UPDATE: Brian Davis, the announcer for the Oklahoma City Thunder since 2008, has been suspended for one game due to his racially-tinged remarks during Wednesday night's game.
A basketball announcer caught many viewers off guard this week when he used a derogatory and historically racist term to describe the shooting style of an NBA point guard on Wednesday evening.
Broadcaster Brian Davis was providing the commentary for the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies when he made the remark.
Russell Westbrook, who achieved his 25th triple-double of the season during the game, sank a three-point shot from the corner of the court, an undeniably difficult shot to make, although one he did with ease thanks to a fake pass move he made to thwart off a defender.
After hitting the nothing-but-net shot, Davis, perhaps wanting to convey how difficult a shot that was to make, spoke a racist colloquialism more common during the antebellum through the Jim Crow eras of American history.
“Westbrook is out of his cotton-picking mind,” Davis said.
Did he just say “Westbrook is out of his cotton-picking mind”?..... pic.twitter.com/fvPZ5cTkjx— Mark Robinson (@MarkyRobs) April 12, 2018
“Cotton-picking” is a phrase that refers to black slaves or sharecroppers in the South, and it was typically used as a negative connotation to express contempt for those individuals.
The team’s vice president of broadcasting, Dan Mahoney, didn’t defend Davis, who has been the on-air announcer for the Thunder since 2008. Instead, in a statement made to the Norman Transcript, he expressed that, while he felt Davis didn’t mean to use the term in a pejorative way, it was nevertheless wrong.
“We think obviously the use of that term was offensive and inappropriate, and I expressed that to Brian [on Wednesday] night,” Mahoney said. “Brian assures me that it was not meant in any derogatory way, and he apologizes. But again, we feel strongly that it’s inappropriate and offensive.”
It is indeed unfortunate that Davis used the term, which is easily recognizable as racist, in his broadcast on Wednesday night. Viewers were subjected to those words, and it was insensitive for him to believe they were deserving to be said, to describe the athletic abilities of a black player, no less.
But the Thunder’s response to the statement is commendable. Management recognized the commentary was vile, and even though it likely wasn’t his intention to be as much, they spoke to the announcer to express their displeasure with him using the term. The apology was forthcoming and appropriate.
Still, more can be done. Davis will likely continue broadcasting for the Thunder, but he should take more care to choose his words more wisely — including thinking twice about terms he may think are commonplace, but in actuality have a more vitriolic background.