For someone who has grown up rapidly over the last few weeks, it was surprising and disappointing to see Roy Hibbert behave like a teenager late Saturday. He used words we hear dropped on the street and in a rap lyric, which society deems OK, but not remarks we often hear on live TV, even after a tough loss.
And yet, after one of the biggest wins in franchise history, when the Pacers beat Miami and forced a Game 7, Hibbert called reporters “MFs” for not giving him more credit as a defensive player, and then dropped a “no homo,” when describing his defense of LeBron James with teammate Paul George.
Is that really you, Hibbert?
Aren’t you supposed to be smarter than this?
Hibbert was wrong for two reasons. First, the comments themselves. Second, for not recognizing his poor choice almost immediately. A mature person would’ve caught himself right away and within minutes if not seconds said, “You know what? I said something really stupid. Let me tell you what I really meant.”
Hibbert didn’t backtrack until much later, after social media went nuts, after the Pacers organization huddled up, after someone reminded him about Jason Collins, after Hibbert finally dislodged his size 18 foot from his throat. Only then did he issue this: “I am apologizing for insensitive remarks made during the post-game press conference … they were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views.”
The apology sounded sincere, and yet the NBA socked him with a $75,000 fine anyway. Just imagine, if Hibbert were a rocker or a rapper, he wouldn’t lose money because of those words. He’d make money. The record would go double platinum. There’s a double standard in society when it comes to athletes and entertainers, who are given “license to create,” which means they’re never called on anything they say.
Anyway, Hibbert reached out to Collins, who in April announced that he’s gay, and that’s all proper and good. Hibbert doesn’t have a history, that anyone can tell, of being homophobic. Maybe he just used street language at the wrong place and the wrong time. We’ve all been there. Every one of us. We just didn’t have a microphone and cameras recording it. That’s not to excuse Hibbert, that’s just the reality.
If he feels reporters are “MFs,” well, we can take that. We’ve got thick skin and been called worse. And none of us take it personally, anyway. But the other comment was misguided and unintentionally aimed at a group of people who’ve been historically discriminated against. They don’t deserve that. Collins shouldn’t have to hear that.
It’s just proof that Collins, and others like him who’d rather keep their preferences to themselves, must deal with these slights even in an age of greater acceptance.
In a strange coincidence, the Pacers and Hibbert are actually being applauded for the way they’ve reached the Eastern Conference finals, how they’re taking Miami’s best shot and how they’re growing up at warp speed. Remember, just last month, they struggled in the first round against the Hawks and Hibbert had a mild impact. And now, this happened.
But let’s separate basketball from character. Growing up on the court has nothing to do with growing up as a human. Hibbert is acing the former, but showed his true age with the latter.