Well, this isn't an especially auspicious start to the offseason for Amar'e Stoudemire.
According to Newsday's Al Iannazzone, the NBA "will be reviewing" an incident in which Stoudemire sent a direct message on Twitter containing a gay slur to a fan who'd told the New York Knicks star that he needs to "come back a lot stronger and quicker" next season to make up for a disappointing 2011-12 campaign.
The private insult — for those unfamiliar with Twitter's messaging system, direct messages are only visible to their recipients, and not to the wide-open Internet audience — soon became public. The fan, whose Twitter handle is @BFerrelli, took a screen capture of the derogatory direct message and tweeted it out for the world to see. News of the slight quickly spread as the screencap made its way around Twitter, and blogs like Busted Coverage, Deadspin and Black Sports Online picked up on the scent. Stoudemire eventually sent the fan a second direct message to "apologize for what [he] said earlier," which was accepted.
Despite that happy ending, though, an NBA spokesman told Newsday's Iannazzone and Marc Berman of the New York Post that the commissioner's office is expected to review the exchange, including the "authenticity" of the profane message, with an eye toward potentially disciplining Stoudemire for the remarks. You'd have to imagine that the league's "investigation" will be pretty brief, considering Stoudemire — who traveled to Milan on Saturday to attend the runway unveiling of Calvin Klein's 2013 spring line on Sunday — hasn't disputed sending either the slur or the follow-up apology, that a "source close to Stoudemire confirmed" to Newsday's Iannazzone "that it was Stoudemire who sent both direct messages," and that Stoudemire's agent, Happy Walters, referred the New York Daily News to Amar'e's Twitter apology when contacted for comment.
There doesn't seem to be any denial of the attack or pleading not guilty from Stat's camp; instead, he seems more likely to throw himself on the mercy of the court led by NBA Commissioner David Stern. The question is, what kind of penalty will Stoudemire face for his transgressions?
When Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was caught on camera calling referee Bennie Adams a "f****t" after disagreeing with a call during a game last April, he received a $100,000 fine. When Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was caught on camera one month later using the same word to shout down a heckling fan, he received a $50,000 fine. Shortly after the two highly publicized incidents, the league created a public service announcement, featuring Grant Hill and Jared Dudley of the Phoenix Suns, imploring young fans not to use homophobic slurs or invoke the word "gay" as a pejorative. Whether Stoudemire's punishment will be more or less severe based on the fact that it came from behind a keyboard rather than on a bench, or because he privately reached out to @BFerrelli to apologize before contrition was mandated by his employer, remains to be seen.
A blow-by-blow of the "action" follows the jump.
The drama began late Saturday morning, when Stoudemire tweeted that he'd just finished a lengthy workout:
... which @BFerrelli viewed as an opportunity to remind Stoudemire that Knicks fans expect him to come back stronger, quicker and better than he was this past season, which was the least productive all-around campaign that the six-time All-Star has turned in since his rookie year of 2002-03 with the Phoenix Suns:
(We know @BFerrelli is being very serious in his entreaties to Stoudemire because he says he is "deadasss [sic]." Or, as Berman hilariously cleaned it up in the Post, "dead[butt].")
The general sentiment here is not wrong — a stronger, quicker, more agile version of Stoudemire who's fully rehabilitated from the lower back issues that knocked him out for most of the Knicks' 2011 first-round loss to the Boston Celtics and sidelined him for nearly a month in New York's run-up to the 2012 postseason would certainly be a big asset to a Knicks team looking to move up the Eastern Conference ladder and get past the first round for the first time in more than a decade. But that's not really what the fan is saying, of course.
The underlying argument is that after a subpar season (and especially that nasty little ending where he got mad after a loss to the Miami Heat, punched a fire extinguisher case and sliced his hand open, causing him to miss a playoff game and look like a total goon), he owes something more to Knicks fans. That he's now at a deficit with the fan base and must make good. That if he turns in anything less than All-NBA dominance and competition for a ring, he'll stay a bum. That's what's underneath the "come back stronger" stuff. Dead ass.
This, it seems, frustrates Amar'e, and he promptly let that frustration boil over in a direct message (profanity redacted):
... which led an angry @BFerrelli to put Stat on blast (profanity redacted):
... which launched a thousand ships and several hours of frantic, "Wait, he said what?!?!" conversation.
On Sunday morning, after the screencaps spread far and wide and the blogs picked up on the story, @BFerrelli shared Amar'e's apology:
... which he accepted:
... which Stoudemire, eager to show that there were no hard feelings, shared with his followers:
... which emboldened @BFerrelli to provide a classic Internet ending to this tempestuous tête-à-tête:
Aaaannnnnndddd scene. Troll hard out there, y'all.
As Berman noted in the Post, this isn't the first time Stoudemire has had a run-in with a fan on Twitter that was later made public. A Knicks fan gave Amar'e grief for sitting courtside at a Heat playoff game after Miami had eliminated New York, saying it spoke ill of Stoudemire's commitment to the team. Stat took exception and communicated that to the fan through direct messages, which the fan — who could not return said messages, since Stoudemire wasn't following him and DMs are a two-way street — publicized, and even turned into a Storify stream, which was later publicized by Tommy Dee at The Knicks Blog.
Here are my hot sports takes on this matter:
1. Whatever fine Amar'e Stoudemire receives, however hefty, is pretty OK by me, because it is important to reinforce in the minds of players and the public that lobbing gay slurs is something that shouldn't happen at all, and should be penalized when it does.
2. I feel barely any kinship with fans who make a point of reaching out to players they "love" to let them know that they are disappointing embarrassments unworthy of that "love." That seems wholly unnecessary, especially when the crime the athlete is accused of committing is "going to a basketball game" or the impetus for your rejoinder is "I just worked out for four and a half hours."
3. Maybe everybody should just stop being jerks.
Stay tuned for more of my patented #HotSportsTakes and hashtags.
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