1) There was a triple-shooting at a Las Vegas strip club during the all-star weekend, and according to some accounts, Tennessee Titans' defensive back Adam "Pacman" Jones was at the center of it. The Associated Press has reported that, according to the Las Vegas police, Jones is not a person of interest in the case. However, a co-owner of the club in question, Robert Susnar, has a different account:
The co-owner of the strip club where three people were shot over the NBA All-Star weekend says pro football player Adam "Pacman" Jones came and left with the shooter, an account that differs from that of Jones' lawyer.
"He denied any knowledge of the shooter, but he was sitting right next to him," club co-owner Robert Susnar told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for Wednesday's edition. "Those guys came in together and left together."
Jones' lawyer, Worrick Robinson, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Jones did not know anyone involved in the shooting and was interviewed by local authorities as a witness, not as a suspect. Police have not said Jones is a person of interest in the case.
Susnar said his recollection of the events was based upon his interviews with employees and club surveillance video.
He said the trouble started after 4 a.m., when Jones and his entourage of a half-dozen people returned to the club for the second time that evening.
Jones tossed hundreds of $1 bills on the stripper stage, Susnar said, adding that when a dancer started grabbing the money without Jones' permission, he got angry, grabbed her hair and slammed her head against the stage.
Security guard Aaron Cudworth, a mixed-martial artist with professional fighting experience, intervened and scuffled with Jones and members of his entourage, he said.
Jones then threatened to kill the guard, Susnar said.
Order was eventually restored and everyone moved outside before the gunman opened fire toward the front door of the club, hitting Cudworth, security guard Tom Urbanski and a female customer, he said.
"He goes out, retrieves a gun, then shoots two security guards, pretty much making good on the threat made by Pacman Jones," Susnar said.
Tragically, Urbanski's spine was shattered by one of the bullets, and though he will survive, he is now paralyzed for life. The above information is from an AP report that appeared in USA Today. The Tennessee Tennessean adds one potentially important piece of information:
Titans cornerback Pacman Jones set off a melee that led to a triple shooting outside a Las Vegas strip club early Monday morning, the club's co-owner said Wednesday, based on accounts he said he had from eyewitnesses.(my emphasis)
In other words, contrary to the implication in the AP report, that Susnar was basing his account on what he himself witnessed, it appears that his information is at one remove from that. I only mention that to clarify where things stand, not to make a judgment about who Jones knew there or what his responsibility for the incident might have been. At this point, there is not yet enough information to say how centrally Pacman was involved. But, the circumstances of the shootings, and the linking of Jones' name to them set off Chris Russo on a tirade tonight the likes of which I have never before heard. And, remember this is a guy whose nickname is "Mad Dog."
I won't be able to do justice to Russo's anger, because he was shouting about as loudly as you can shout and still be understood, but here are some of his comments:
"you try to follow sports, you try to get your kids in the mix, to show them the beauty of sports, and you get this...I can't take it anymore...I can't take it...it makes me sick..."
"who the hell is Pacman Jones...some thug with a gun who's going to take the law into his own hands...and the NFL does nothing...the NFL should say to Jones, finito! Tank Johnson. Finito! Let them go fight in the courts and lose millions of dollars...can't take it anymore...can't take it...how is it possible five days after a kid that he shot is paralyzed for life that the NFL has said nothing. Show some guts, Goodell...Gene, show some guts...you make us sick! You let Lewis walk!"
"Somebody's got a take a stand here...someone's gotta take them to the mat..."
"I am tired of hearing people say 'it's difficult'...'we need to let the court system runs its course...'" "No, we don't!" "Kick him the hell out! Now!"
"That house man freaking Upshaw!"
A few months ago, I wrote a post on Terrell Owens, the day after his overdose incident. At that time, I criticized the tendency of sports media, in its generally resentful view of contemporary athletes, for failing to make distinctions between transgressions that really matter, like knee-capping somebody, or shooting them, and behaviors that, while annoying and obnoxious, amount to nothing, like essentially everything Owens has done. But, I don't want to go down that road tonight. Instead, I just want to note what seems to be a bubbling resentment directed at professional team sport athletes, particularly those in football and the NBA. Earlier today, a caller to Russo started off by saying the NBA was just terrible, and that the league was just full of thugs. Russo, like his partner Francesa, has now taken up the mantle of the double standard by which the NFL gets a pass for stuff that the NBA doesn't. So, Russo pointed out to the caller that NFL players have gotten involved in many more off-field incidents than NBA players and that, therefore, you can't say the NBA is worse than the NFL. To which the caller responded, "yeah, but I think the NBA is worse."
But, the Jones incident obliterates those distinctions. There have been many conflicting accounts of what went on in Las Vegas during the NBA's all-star weekend - about the level of crime, about how people would rather wait 75 minutes for a cab rather than walk 15 minutes, about how the police all but deserted the downtown area, leaving folks to their fate against "gangs" 'posses" etc. And, to cap it all off, at the end of a basketball weekend that has provided all sorts of fodder to reinforce some of the worst of what people believe about the NBA and the "element" that accompanies it, a football player with a troubled past is tied to a horrific crime at a strip club.
Where this is headed, I don't know. But, there's no doubt that a significant subset of the white fan base - and sports media machinery - that is the backbone of the financial backbone of the major professional sports leagues is getting angrier by the day at a world that seems more alien, more out of control and more unaccountable than ever before. And, it doesn't matter that the vast majority of players in the two leagues most closely scrutinized for such behavior - the NBA and the NFL - aren't personally associated with any trouble at all. Because, every time there's a report of an arrest, whether its for drunk driving, or whatever, it conjures a set of images that we can't get out of our minds - a set of images that indicts the Black Athlete. This is why it misses the mark for people to say that race is too often and unfairly interjected into our discussions of how sports are covered. Because the dominant sports media culture in this country - the columnists, radio hosts, etc., are never going to be able to separate completely the actions of individual Black athletes from a larger set of images about The Black Athlete, the way that culture can separate the actions of individual white athletes from some larger stereotype about whites. Just last night there was an outrageous melee between the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres, involving at least eight players and including six ejections. And, as Deadspin put it: "we'll say it again: If this had happened in the NBA, the league would be disbanded."
So that nobody misunderstands me, it makes me sick that a man was paralyzed for life and, if Jones really was involved, it'll make me sick if he gets to live his life as if nothing happened. I have never personally believed that Ray Lewis was uninvolved in the double-murder to which his associates were tied in Atlanta a few years ago, and I don't have a scintilla of doubt about OJ's guilt. And, I am not here to bash Russo for his anger tonight about the shootings. Because, not everything is all about race. It's possible to be sickened by what Ray Lewis may have done, and what OJ surely did, and what Pacman may have been involved in on a basic, human level. But, in trying to think about how American sports are covered today, with the focus on off-the-field behavior, and police blotters and all that, it seems inescapably true that the problem of race, the way it's embedded in our psyches and the way it affects how we make our most deeply felt judgments is only becoming a more serious one in the world of American team sports.
2) Speaking of Vegas, Dwil, over at Sports on My Mind, does good work going after Jason Whitlock for having written two diametrically opposed accounts of the all-star weekend. One, for the KC Star, seemed to revel in some of the excesses of the weekend, while the second one, written from Whitlock's bigger perch at AOL sports a couple of days later, condemned the festivities of the weekend. It's a long post. But, it's a good example of how, at their best, bloggers are holding media accountable in ways that mainstream media have simply not had to deal with in the past. Whether in politics, or sports, many media types are taking poorly to this new scrutiny. And, as reporters often like to say about their own work, if the bloggers are pissing people off like this, they must be doing something right.
3) Scoop Jackson has a compelling interview with his childhood friend Tim Hardaway. Scoop does a good job of asking his friend real questions and, clearly enough, doesn't share Hardaway's views on the issue for which Hardaway is now famous. Hardaway seems most apologetic for having used the word "hate" which he says he doesn't feel for anybody.
Here's that part of their exchange:
Scoop: You used the word "hate" …
Tim: I know. And I don't hate anybody. I don't have a hate bone in my body.
Then how did that come out of you?
Scoop, it was just the wrong choice of words. It came out of my mouth real crude and real bad and real ugly. And people think that that's the way I feel. That I hate [gay people], and I don't. I don't condone what they do, but I don't hate them. But that's how it came out.
They call them hate crimes for a reason.
And that's what it was, a hate crime on my part. But I was never brought up to hate anybody, you know that. But that's just the word and that's how we used it. You know when we got a whopping we'd be like, "I hate my moms" or "I hate my dad," and at the time you really didn't hate them, but that was the word you used. You know I can go into a restaurant and say, "I hate this food, I hate the chef, I don't even know why I came back to this restaurant." But I know I can't use the word like that, or let's say I'm not supposed to. People have come up to me and told me, "Tim, you can't say that you hate gay people because it's not the same term." But that's how I talk. That's the way I am.
As for Hardaway's beliefs, it's clear that those are intact:
But still you have issues with gays?
I still don't accept their lifestyle. No.
And you stand on that?
Yes. You know, we were brought up to not even condone or associate yourself with a gay person. If you knew of a gay person, disassociate yourself with them.
But Tim, you've been in Miami for years now and there is a strong and public gay community there. How have you still held on to that same mentality while living in Miami all of these years?
I just get away from it. I just walk away. I see it, I just go the other way, cross the street.
So at no point did you ever try to understand their lifestyle or way of life?
No. Never did. Never wanted to.
Do you want to now?
No. I don't want to … try to find some type of understanding of why they live the way they live or why they are the way they are. Maybe I could go to therapy, maybe someone can help me out with understanding [them], the sensitivity of the issue. But as a person, my beliefs are my beliefs. I don't have to condone it and I don't have to be around it. But I don't have to hate it either.
Notably, later in the interview Hardaway insists that his biggest issue with a gay teammate would be a trust one - that if a teammate were gay, but didn't tell anyone until after he retired, Hardaway would feel betrayed. His preference, in other words, would be to know up front:
Because at least then I'd know. I'd know what I'm dealing with from the beginning. But if a guy, like they say, is in the closet and decides to come out of the closet years down the line, you feel that your friendship, him being a teammate, being a part of a team, which in a lot of ways is like being part of a family or fraternity, has been betrayed. You feel like you've been double-crossed. We were in battles together, we were in the trenches together, how could you not tell me? I have a friend who was on a team with a gay person and that person was his roommate and his teammate came out of the closet after they had been roommates. And my friend told me that he's the one who felt violated. He told me that he hates him now. He said if the dude had come to him before and told him this, maybe it could have been worked out, easier to accept. It's a trust issue.
Maybe Hardaway means it when he says he doesn't hate. It''s often hard to know what's in a person's heart. But, this trust stuff is 100% bullshit. Hardaway's spent the entire interview up to this point saying he wants nothing to do with gays, has no desire to understand where they're coming from, was taught and prefers to run in the opposite direction from them, and now he's blaming a potential gay teammate for not being honest with him about his sexuality. What, because teammates have to be in the trenches with one another and trust one another, so Hardaway wants to know if a teammate is gay so he can high tail it out of that trench as soon as he finds out? Maybe Hardaway doesn't understand how utterly incoherent he sounds on this point. Or, maybe, and this is part of what makes the interview so good, Hardaway is really conflicted, and is trying to work through what he thinks as the interview wears on:
So in your mind do you want forgiveness or are you just going to try to get yourself straight?
I want both. I want forgiveness and I want to get my s--- together.
And that entails …
Right now, learning. Learning that gay people are really no different than a lot of other people. Learning that they work hard, they do things in the community, they are responsible for building parks, rec centers, providing safe environments for kids, just things I had never associated with them before. [This last week] has opened up my eyes to the gay population and what they do. I'm getting a lot of knowledge about them that I didn't have. Which is going to make me a better person. And if it doesn't, then I'm a damn fool.
Our world is becoming more complex, more diverse, more confusing. Sports are, in many ways, all about order, simplicity, clear rules and uniformity. There's an escalating friction between the latter and the former and it's creating an intense heat. And, in all sorts of ways, it seems to have boiled over the past couple of weeks.