Minnesota House Rep. Pat Garofalo is facing criticism for an allegedly racist tweet in which he pointed out the crime rate among NBA players.
"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]," he said Sunday night, gaining more than 1,000 re-tweets.
Twitter users immediately responded to Mr. Garofalo, who is white, calling him racist, misogynist and cowardly. Roughly three of every four NBA players are black.
"The racial and racist undertones in this comment is beyond alarming," one person tweeted.
"I don't know if you're as equally racist as you are in lacking self-awareness. either way, it's astonishing to watch," another wrote.
The Republican, currently serving his fifth term, told a local news station that simply criticizing athletes doesn't make him racist.
"I reject that any criticism of athletes and their conduct is somehow racist," Mr. Garofalo said. "I really don't understand how being critical of a culture of pro athletes has anything to do with race. 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 expounded in a email to sports website Deadspin:
"I was talking about the NBA's high arrest rate and that their punishment for positive drugs tests are weaker than other leagues. 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."
Eventually, Mr. Garofalo issued an apology Monday morning:
"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," he said in a statement. "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."
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