If the National Basketball Association were to collapse, the only negative effect would be an increase in street crime — according to a tweet by a Minnesota politician that’s causing an online backlash for what many are calling a racist sentiment.
“Let’s be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/ possible exception of increase in streetcrime [sic],” Republican Minnesota State Rep. Pat Garofalo tweeted on Sunday.
Deadspin, which first reported the comment, wrote only that it “seems like a questionable thing to tweet.”
But others on Twitter took Garofalo to task for what they called a racist and tone-deaf tweet, which suggested the majority-black NBA would turn to crime without a paycheck from sports.
@PatGarofalo the racial and racist undertones in this comment is beyond alarming.
– Ryan Vernosh (@RyanVernosh) March 9, 2014
I don’t know if you’re as equally racist as you are in lacking self-awareness. either way, it’s astonishing to watch @PatGarofalo
– DarkSkintDostoyevsky (@daniecal) March 9, 2014
.@PatGarofalo So, how long have you been a racist?
– recognize. (@jenihead) March 9, 2014
Garofalo sent an email to Deadspin and engaged with critics on Twitter clarifying his comment, which he said refers to the high arrest rate within the NBA and not to the predominant race among players.
“I was talking about the NBA’s high arrest rate and that their punishment for positive drugs tests are weaker than other leagues,” Garofalo wrote to Deadspin.
“No intent beyond that. The culture among many pro athletes that they are above the law is the problem, not people like me pointing that problem out.”
But Garofalo ultimately released a statement Monday apologizing for the tweet.
“To those NBA players and others who are unfairly categorized by my comments, please accept my apologies,” Garofalo wrote on Twitter.
“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 apologize 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 sincere apologies for my comments.”
Garofalo is up for reelection this year.