So much of the response to Andre Iguodala‘s racially loaded comments has focused on relatively superficial issues: his use of profanity, whether he’s frustrated with the Warriors’ recent losing, how Steve Kerr reacted.
A reminder what Iguodala said about Golden State’s loss to the Timberwolves and Kerr’s plan to rest key players against the Spurs the following night, via Chris Haynes of ESPN and Anthony Slater of The Mercury News:
“We gotta score more than the other team,” Iguodala told reporters, after being asked what led to their second consecutive loss. “Yep, they want dumb n—as, so I’m going to give y’all a dumb n—a.”
What would dumb [n-word] say? Just play harder. Figure it out. Change gonna come. Ain’t that what we should say? Change gonna come.
Do what master say.
Yesterday, Iguodala addressed those comments and hinted at an underlying issue.
Iguodala, via Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area:
“It probably was the wrong time to express myself,” Iguodala said after practice. “But we all have our own opinions. We all have our own feelings. I feel like we are entitled to them. We try to pick and choose the time to do it, and who we choose to share it with, because some may not understand where I’m coming from, which is to be expected.
“The only reason I feel like it’s the wrong time is because it puts my team in that situation and my coaching staff in that situation. I have a great relationship with Steve Kerr, and he knows that.”
“I wish I wouldn’t have put my teammates and the organization in that situation,” Iguodala said. “But it doesn’t change how I feel about certain situations. You can’t give certain people power, and I gave certain people power. Live and learn from the situation, and move forward.”
Iguodala also made a point directly to the media:
I like to play mind games with you guys, but it still doesn’t take away from how someone makes you feel. A lot of guys may feel a certain way, but they don’t know how to express it. But I may have chosen the wrong way to express it. But that’s my personal way of getting back at you guys a little bit.
Iguodala did put Kerr in a potentially awkward position with his “master” remarks. That might not have been Iguodala’s intent, but the outcome was foreseeable.
But I think there’s valid media criticism behind Iguodala’s protest. I don’t know that, because he was purposefully vague and insisted he was making an inside joke. But there’s a dynamic between the largely white media and mostly black players that is worth addressing. The media sometimes asks questions after losses setting up players to give simple-sounding answers. The media does hold power to shape how players are perceived. The media doesn’t always treat players fairly. I have no problem with anyone raising questions about the entire process.
That said, Iguodala should know that when he addresses the media – especially on camera – he isn’t just speaking with the reporters in front of him. He’s talking to the entire world, and his comments will be relayed without the proper context always attached. (Ironically, that’s an element of the power dynamic I think Iguodala is addressing.) The reporters are just a conduit to the general public.
Iguodala often seems like he’s not bothered by the chaos he causes with mysterious statements and vague tweets, and that’s fine. I’ve always found that to be an implicit protest of how athletes’ words are consumed, which is why I see Friday’s interview as just fitting into his larger objective. But this case spun out of control, because many assumed he was criticizing Kerr.
As much as he might hope the narrative-setting worked differently, Iguodala was at the whim of the critics and how they’d perceive and disseminate his words.
I’m not sure whether this backfired on Iguodala or he just proved to himself how right he is.