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Minn. legislator eventually apologizes for ill-considered, uninformed, racially dubious tweet about NBA, 'streetcrime'

Pat Garofalo represents District 58B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He's a 42-year-old fifth-term Republican first elected in 2004, and unless you were a Twin Cities resident with business before with the state House's committees on energy policy, state and local taxes or living wage jobs, you probably wouldn't have much reason to have any idea who Rep. Garofalo is.

(Unless, of course, you remember hearing about some dude who was mad that you might not be allowed to buy guns at the stadium on an upcoming Minnesota Vikings game day.)

On Sunday afternoon, he introduced himself to the world with a staggering bit of nonsense:

Maybe you read that missive and connected the "possible exception of increase in streetcrime" with the premise that NBA players on those folded teams would be out of work and, y'know, let loose to prey on humanity. Maybe you thought Garofalo was claiming "streetcrime" would increase because the folks who make up the NBA's fan base would no longer have their attention diverted by their favorite teams. (Nevermind that the NBA's fan base remains largely white ... albeit not nearly as white as Garofalo's district.)

Either way, this sure seemed like a troubling and ridiculous thing for an elected official to think up, write down, look at, approve of, and send out to the world.

Garofalo's tweet immediately got a signal boost from a number of Twitter users shocked by what sure seemed to the legislator's very thinly veiled racism about a league whose player population is more than three-quarters African American. He stood his ground, though:

My initial reaction, given that the tweets came from an unverified account, was to wonder if this was a put-on, like the character of Ohio Rep. Richard Martin created by comedian Paul Gilmartin. Kevin Draper of The Diss cleared that up on Sunday, however:

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Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo. (Photo via Minnesota State Legislature)

The tweet came from an unconfirmed account and is not linked to by any of Garofalo’s official pages, so I reached out to him for a comment and got the following response:
Thanks for the email Kevin. I appreciate the chance to respond. I was talking about the NBA’s high arrest rate and that they are the only major pro league in which testing positive for marijuana is not a substance abuse violation. No intent beyond that. The culture among many pro athletes that they are above the law is the problem, not people pointing that problem out.

OK, so we're on the record. That tweet was written by an elected member of the Minnesota House of Representatives; he wasn't hacked, he wasn't misconstrued, he wasn't taken out of context. He wrote what he wrote, he meant it and he staunchly defended himself against allegations of racism, according to Minnesota TV station KARE 11:

"I reject that any criticism of athletes and their conduct is somehow racist," Garofalo told KARE 11. [...]
"I really don't understand how being critical of a culture of pro athletes has anything to do with race," Garofalo said. "This is a behavior that transcends the race of the athlete, and it seems to be a culture in all professional sports these days."

He wasn't talking about "all professional sports these days," though. He was talking about the NBA and its players. And unfortunately for him, he was wrong. Like, very, very wrong.

As Draper noted, testing positive for marijuana is absolutely a violation of the policy on substance abuse agreed upon by the league and the National Basketball Players Association. You can read it for yourself on pages 352 and 353 of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement — Article XXXIII ("Anti-Drug Program"), Section 8 ("Marijuana Program"), Subsection (c) ("Penalties") lays it all out fairly clearly:

(c) Penalties. Any player who (i) tests positive for marijuana pursuant to Section 5 (Reasonable Cause Testing), Section 6 (Random Testing), or Section 15 (Additional Bases for Testing), (ii) is adjudged by the Grievance Arbitrator pursuant to Section 5(e) above to have used or possessed marijuana, or (iii) has been convicted of (including a plea of guilty, no contest or nolo contendere to) the use or possession of marijuana in violation of the law, shall suffer the following penalties:
(A) For the first such violation, the player shall be required to enter the Marijuana Program;
(B) For the second such violation, the player shall be fined $25,000 and, if the player is not then subject to in-patient or aftercare treatment in the Marijuana Program, be required to enter the Marijuana Program;
(C) For the third such violation, the player shall be suspended for five (5) games and, if the player is not then subject to in-patient or aftercare treatment in the Marijuana Program, be required to enter the Marijuana Program; and
(D) For any subsequent violation, the player shall be suspended for five (5) games longer than his immediately-preceding suspension for violating the Marijuana Program and, if the player is not then subject to in-patient or aftercare treatment in the Marijuana Program, be required to enter the Marijuana Program.

Hence, Terrel Harris and J.R. Smith.

And what about the NBA's high arrest rate, Kyle Wagner of Regressing?

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 308,745,538 people in the country. For concurrency's sake, we pulled the arrest accounting for 2010. There were 13,122,110 total arrests that year. Disregarding anyone who was arrested twice, this is 4.25 percent of the population. Minnesota fares a bit better. As of 2011, Minnesota had a population of 5,303,925 reported, which accounted for 178,469 arrests, for a 3.36 percent arrest rate.
This is, however, a comparison against the entire population. Maybe NBA players are actually more violent than males in their age group, which we'll define here because that's how the census presents it. By those data, there were 29,808,343 males 20-34 in the U.S. in 2010. In that same year, 3,928,463 males in that age range were arrested, for 13.18 percent. [...]
According to Basketball-Reference.com, 469 NBA players appeared in games in 2013-2014. This number does not include players who were rostered, but never saw the floor, and because this exercise is idiotic, and I can actually feel my will to live fading with every keystroke, I am not going to bother to dig up the other, much larger number. Anyway, there were 469 active — well, "super-active," I guess — against nine arrests for NBA players in 2013, according to Arrest Nation. This includes a citation, not an arrest, for Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson showing up twice, and Boobie Gibson taking a second-degree battery charge, even though he was not on an NBA roster at the time. [...]
That is 1.92 percent, and obviously high because we didn't bother to dig out players who did not appear in games, or to sift through any who appeared in the latter half of the 2012-2013 season.

To review: Not only is the NBA's arrest rate not high, it's actually less than half the national average and less than 15 percent the average of males between the ages of 20 and 34.

Ill-considered "edginess" is evidently nothing new for Garofalo; nor, it seems, are a distaste for the NBA or a tendency to disregard facts for the sake of argument.

As of Monday morning, Garofalo seemed to have moved on to new pressing topics:

By Monday afternoon, though, his tune had changed:

Here's the statement:

"In the last 24 hours, I've had the opportunity to re-learn one of life's lessons: whenever any of us are offering opinions, it is best to refer to people as individuals as opposed to groups. Last night, I publicly commented on the NBA and I sincerely apologized to those who I unfairly categorized. The NBA has many examples of players and owners who are role models for our communities and for our country. Those individuals did not deserve that criticism and I apologize. In addition, it's been brought to my attention that I was mistaken and the NBA policy on drug enforcement is stronger than I previously believed. Again, I offer my sincerest apologies for my comments," stated Rep. Garofalo.

Here's a better lesson to learn, Rep. Garofalo: "Whenever I'm offering opinions, I should know what the hell I'm talking about."

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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