Orlando Sentinel columnist Jemele Hill is going out of her way to paint this man in a negative light.
Last week, Orlando Magic fan Hooman Hamzehloui was ejected from the TD Waterhouse Centre after he called Houston Rockets' center Dikembe Mutombo a "monkey." Hamzehloui contends that he didn't realize what he was saying would be considered a racial slur. Nonetheless, he offered a "complete and unconditional apology" to Mutombo, donated $5,000 to the charity of Mutombo's choice and vowed not to return to anymore Orlando home games until Mutombo gave him the okay. The league took it a step further by refunding his season ticket money and banning Hamzehloui from all NBA arenas for the season.
While Mutombo has forgiven the man and wants to put the whole thing in the past, Jamele Hill wants to beat a dead horse. The incident happened Thursday and was over on Monday. Hill decided to make this the subject of her Tuesday column. Stop beating the horse, Jamele. You're getting blood all over the place.
Her column today was entitled, "Magic fan's sad comments are indefensible." Thanks for clearing that up. Why, just last week, I thought to myself that calling my fellow black people "monkey" was the okay thing to do. Good thing you're here to tell us these things.
She goes on to say that she spoke with Hamzehloui on Monday and that while she believes he isn't a racist and simply misguided, he refuses to accept full blame for the incident that happened. He says that he used a "poor choice of words." True, he did. He goes on to say that "If I said he looked like a chimpanzee or like a gorilla, none of this happens." While that's not entirely accurate, it doesn't mean that he's shirking responsibility. It just means that he doesn't know black people.
Now, upon finding out that his season tickets were being revoked, he reacted in this way: "They have players shooting guns in front of strip clubs and getting into drug-related fights and marijuana getting found in cars, but that's OK. I say something I'm sorry about and they want to throw me to the wolves."
Admittedly, it does sound like he's trying to pass the buck. It's like when you get stopped by the cop, but there were three cars going faster than you that he missed. I'm not defending what he's saying, because that's pretty much what he's doing. But what do you expect him to say?
Here's my point: The man publicly apologized, donated money, took himself away from the Orlando Magic games. He did all the right things, but the league came down on him anyway. Was it overkill? I think so, but the league has done a lot of overkill things since the Indiana Pacers started swinging on fans. And calling Mutombo a monkey upset him enough to make him want to go into the stands to get Hamzehloui, fines and suspensions be damned. However, what's done is done. And if Hamzehloui was waffling between being contrite and passing the buck, as Jamele Hill claims, he would have used the exact same channels that he used to apologize to complain about his banishment. It's not like the media wouldn't listen. This would have been in the first 20 minutes of SportsCenter.
But what really happened here? Jamele Hill sought the man out and asked him what he really thought. In a discussion between two people, he told her. It's not like he called a press conference and said this. Anyone in the world would have reacted the same way, regardless of whether or not this was "on the record." In a one-on-one discussion, of course you're more likely to hear what the person really thinks. But just because you're punished doesn't mean you have to like it. Just because you don't like your punishment doesn't mean that you're not sorry for what you did.
Ms. Hill seems to think that just because he's not begging for forgiveness all the time that he's not sorry. She actually feels that he hasn't done enough to make amends, and that he should not only accept his punishment without complaint (which he did, until he was ASKED), but "offer to record a public service announcement warning NBA fans that yelling abusive epithets is not cheering."
Sounds good on the surface, but seriously...who's going to listen to Hooman Hamzehloui? That would be a waste of time on both sides. Even if he did do it, it's not going to work, because there's always going to be an asshole at sporting events. You could go to a little league game and you'd have that same guy in the stands, being rude and bothering people around him.
The thing is, people are going to be jerks at sporting events and they have to right to do so. They don't have the right to throw things, be bigots or just be completely disrespectful. There is a line that shouldn't be crossed. But leagues like the NBA and the NFL know that they need jerks at their events. These are the passionate sports fans that drive fanbases. When the team is losing, who do you think will keep showing up? That's right. And I'll bet you won't turn his money away then.
Who else is going to get the crowd fired up? Cheerleaders? The pop song playing over the house speakers? The CGI video on the jumbotron? No, it's the jerk, sitting three sections over in body paint, who's been riding the opposing teams' point guard all game long.
The city of Boston used to have some of the greatest crowds ever, packed into the old Boston Garden, and in one of the whitest cities in America, the Lakers would come in, featuring a flashy, black point guard, and do battle with the Great White Hope. You're disturbingly naive if you think that they weren't being assholes towards the Lakers. Let me clear something up for you: They weren't commending them on their dazzling offense.
Really, how boring would it be to have everyone sitting quietly in their seats, watching the game and politely clapping at predetermined intervals? That's great. The desired future for all sports crowds resembles the one at Wimbledon.
I know all of this seems like a digression, but the point is that you can't or shouldn't try to dampen the enthusiasm of a crowd. The NBA is doing this with their new overkill approach to handling things. Apologizing and self-censure apparently isn't enough. As a result, Hamzehloui says that the NBA has lost a boisterous fan, in a time where lifeless crowds have become the norm.
I don't think he's a jerk. He just used a poor choice of words, like he said. I think, perhaps a 20 game ban would have driven the point home for others.
And as if to dance on the grave, Ms. Hill is right there to say, "If that's his attitude, he won't be missed. He would make a great Predators fan." He might not be missed, but his enthusiasm will. The Orlando Magic haven't had a lot of excitement surrounding the team since the Shaq and Penny days. You should be glad that you still have fans who want to support the team.