While @NBA Is Quiet About @SHAQ Puerto Rican Comments, “Latino” Month Fails #NoMames

Mar 5, 2012
11:55 AM

Granted, Shaquille O'Neal is no longer an active player in the NBA, he is an analyst for TNT, but nonetheless he was named of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players and with confirmation that he indeed said SOMETHING disparaging against Puerto Rico during All-Star Weekend in Orlando, we have been asking for the NBA to comment about the situation.

Of course, we have gotten the silent treatment so far, just like we have had from TNT and Shaq. As independent journalists, we know that people don't need to contact us back, yet that doesn't mean that we won't stop covering the story, and for those who think we are just "beating a dead horse," we understand. Media outlets get that all the time, and if the story doesn't interest you as a reader, that is fine. It does, however, interest us because of the following reasons:

  • Shaq is pretty high-profile still and we would have stopped covering the story but when Shaq's public tweets and videos basically denied the allegations, we decided to do a little more digging and reporting. The point is that we have been asking Shaq for clarification via Twitter for about a week, and it's cool that he doesn't answer, it's his right to ignore us. However, there are questions that linger for us: In his tweets on February 26, he said that reporter was asking for a photograph and in his video an hour later, he said  the reporter was asking for an autograph
  • The Puerto Rican market is NBA mad. It is arguably the most popular professional sports league on the island. Puerto Ricans have a long and proud history of basketball accomplishments and when their native sons (like JJ Barea) win titles, the entire island celebrates with pride. The NBA is big on the island and wouldn't you think that Shaq, TNT, and the NBA be aware of that? 
  • As for the video, Shaq ended it with "Mamitas lindas, dame besos," as his way of saying he loves Puerto Rico. Was it a joke? Why go there? Why does that mean?
  • And when we heard from anonymous sources that Shaq was going to publicly apologize on TNT last Thursday, we tried to confirm that information. That information was not confirmed, yet when we reached out to another witness to the event on Twitter, we started to see that SOMETHING did indeed happen. We just want Shaq to clarify what his side of the story here, and ask how social media has helped (or hurt) him share that story. Again, he has every right to say no to us, and that is fine. But everything we reported about this story is either PUBLIC (from tweets, video, published reports) or from reporting we did on this. Journalism 101, although we are pretty sure Shaq would call us "yellow journalists." (We have been called worse.)

Ironically, all this Shaq and Puerto Rican fiasco comes at a time when the NBA is promoting its' yearly "Noche Latina" campaign, which as our friends at Tu Vez so eloquently said, appears to just be another lame attempt to segregate the US Latino consumer market and make us all feel "special" and "different." Granted, there is something cool about sports jerseys that say Los Lakers and El Heat, but when it is segegated and made "special," we just want to roll our eyes and sake our collective heads. For that the NBA earns a #NoMames award because it misses the key point about all this (see our manifesto). Like Tu Vez says:

To further honor Hispanic fans and players during Noche Latina games, participating teams will host in-arena Latin-themed activities, including music, performances, and giveaways. As the league’s marquee program under the éne•bé•a platform, Noche Latina events will also be supported with television and radio advertising on both English- and Spanish-language media across the country as well as on the league’s Spanish-language Web site, enebea.com, and social media pages.

In essence, they’re employing the same strategy the NFL used to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month. Throw some mariachi and salsa dancers on the court, have the PA system play some “La Cucaracha” during time out breaks, and call it a day. Mission accomplished.

Look, we get it that the NBA is trying to court the ever-growing Latino demographic. But their current course of action is reductive of Latin American culture and history, condescending, and even absurd. And we’re not the ones who think that either. The image below is a screen grab from  The Onion that perfectly encapsulates the inanity of the league’s campaign:

The Onion

The NBA’s marketing department should be in contention for Latino Rebels‘ #NoMames award. But instead of just writing and complaining about it, we’re taking a more productive approach. That’s why we’re creating an online petition to get the NBA to stop their current “Noche Latina” outreach campaign. Let the league know that not only do you not care for this dumb P.R. stunt, but that you find it counterproductive to their mission by signing our petition below.