Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith: Resign

You know why this story ticks me off? Because Los Angeles has between 500,000 and one million Iranian-American residents. If L.A. Clippers announcers felt comfortable denigrating Iranians in Los Angeles--as close to "Little Tehran" as you can get in America--what does it say about America and its willingness to respect the top performers who come here? What does it say about America's willingness to extend the American Dream to Middle Eastern immigrants?

Also, if you think this issue concerns only a mispronunciation, you are wrong. The announcers compared NBA player and consummate professional Haddadi to Borat. They did so only because of Hamed Haddadi's national origin. They would not have made such comments if Haddadi was from England, Japan, China, or Mexico. Is anyone seriously saying it's okay to make disparaging comments against someone because of where he was born?

Moreover, people who think the announcers made the comments only because Haddadi looks like Borat unwittingly raise a good question: if Lawler and Smith are completely blind, should they continue announcing games? In other words, are people seriously saying the announcers only compared a 7 foot 2 inches Iranian NBA player with olive skin to a much smaller, much lighter-skinned character because they thought the mustached Borat and soul patch Haddadi look so much alike? You know you have problems when your "argument" is just a variation of "All black people look alike, don't they?" (And imagine the consequences if a baseball announcer asked, "Doesn't Jackie Robinson look like Sambo's older brother?")

Some people say if Hamed Haddadi accepted the announcers' apologies, then we, too, should move on. This sentiment is wrongheaded and ignorant. It rewards the announcers who made the racist statements and ignores the victim's silent anguish. After all, what else could Haddadi do but be gracious in the face of overt racism and crassness? Let it be known, however, that had the announcers made similar remarks about Jews or African-Americans, they would have been fired. Or have we forgotten Howard Cossell's remark about "the little monkey" and his subsequent departure from Monday Night Football? And don't forget baseball analyst Steve Lyons' termination after he referenced Lou Piniella's Hispanic heritage.

Below is the transcript of the conversation between Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith, which occurred late in the Memphis Grizzlies game:

Smith: “Look who’s in.”

Lawler: “Hamed Haddadi. Where’s he from?”

Smith: “He’s the first Iranian to play in the NBA.” (Smith mispronounces "Iranian" as "Eye-ranian.")

Lawler: “There aren’t any Iranian players in the NBA,” repeating Smith’s mispronunciation.

Smith: “He’s the only one.”

Lawler: “He’s from Iran?”

Smith: “I guess so.”

Lawler: “That Iran?”

Smith: “Yes.”

Lawler: "The real Iran?"

Smith: “Yes.”

Lawler: “Wow. Haddadi that’s H-A-D-D-A-D-I.”

Smith: "You’re sure it’s not Borat’s older

Smith: “If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I’m going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part.”

Lawler: “Here’s Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball.”

Smith: “Especially the post players.

Lawler: “I don’t know about their guards.”

Lawler and Smith need to resign, not just apologize. Comparing a professional basketball player to a boorish caricature like Borat is unacceptable because the joke relates to Haddadi's national origin. The announcers would not have made their statements unless they believed Haddadi was from a country they perceive as backwards.

In addition, their statements demean not just Haddadi, but the American Dream itself. America's prosperity relies in part upon the sweat and toil of immigrants--like Haddadi--who have taken risks to come here, seeking the American Dream. The American Dream stands for the proposition that any immigrant from any country--not just countries that happen to be portrayed positively in the media--can come to America and become American. Had Haddadi been from a European country, the announcers would not have made such comments. The announcers made their comments only because Haddadi was from a country they viewed negatively. Their statements were based on Haddadi's national origin (Iranian) and race (perceived as non-white).

By the way, I was lucky enough to meet Haddadi at a local Golden State Warriors game. The Warriors held an Iranian Heritage night to attract Iranian-American fans. Hundreds of Iranian-Americans attended the game and boosted the Warriors' and the NBA's bottom line. If the NBA cares about its image, it will take further action. (Pictures from the Warriors' Iranian Heritage Night are here.)

By the way, the person who complained to the network was Arya Towfighi, vice president and assistant general counsel for Univision Communications Inc. in Los Angeles, California. He complained to "highlight the issue that a lot of folks wouldn't consider saying such things about African-Americans or Hispanics but because this was an Iranian player it just flowed more easily." According to journalist Diane Pucin, Mr. Towfighi said he shooed his 8-year-old son out of the room before replaying the exchange. "I didn't want my son to hear that," Mr. Towfighi said.

Update: some people have commented on this post. Feel free to leave your own comment.

Bonus: click here or here for one of the most awesome NBA pictures ever.

Update on December 21, 2009: I wanted to clarify something. If Haddadi had known Lawler and Smith reasonably well, or if they had a pre-existing congenial relationship, perhaps the analysis would be different. In this case, however, Lawler and Smith had no interactions with Haddadi prior to comparing him to a caricature and focusing on his national origin.

Bonus (added on January 31, 2012): here are two other links on controversial topics: (Fort Hood Shootings) (Is Christianity a Peaceful Religion?)


Unknown said...

K_Yew, you're an outright idiot. I don't care if you're Iranian, anglo-sexon or black, but that is what's wrong with America today: Goddamn liberals.

Anonymous said...

I'm ashamed that Lawler and Smith are stilled on TV. These guys are suppose to be professionals and they act like kids. They should be held to the professional standards of any US Company. we have laws against racism and with the number of minorities playing basketball I’m surprised they still have their jobs. If these same comments were made in any US company the person would be fired why are these guys still broadcasting basketball? We can't treat them differently because they are on TV! The NBA or the network should step in and protect its players and its reputation.

Ogey said...

This stuff is crazy. I have read this over and over and don't see how their comments are offensive. Have a sense of humor people. America also has these things called the Bill of Rights you should read them. Pay most of your attention to the first Amendment. This is childish, it's not like they said he should use a different restroom or make them ride in the back of a bus. If they said something like that then i would understand why people would be upset. Common people grow up a little bit.

Matt Rafat said...

Eugene, if you're going to spend the time writing a comment, shouldn't you at least try to elevate your discourse above third-grade name-calling?

Matt Rafat said...

Ogey, thank you for your comment. I agree that the comments do not rise to the level of Jim Crow racism. At the same, I hope we're not so jaded that we consider anything below supporting lynching and segregation acceptable.

Why are the comments offensive? In a nutshell, if Haddadi was not a member of an out-of-favor minority group, the announcers would not have made such demeaning comments. As far as a I know, no NBA announcer made similar comments about China's Yao Ming, Israel's Omri Casspi, Germany's Dirk Nowitski, Mexico's Eduardo Najera, or other international players. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Imagine this scenario:

Smith: There's Najera coming onto the floor.

Lawler: That's the player from Mex-eee-ko, right?

Smith: Is he from the real Mex-eee-ko, or the new one, right here in New Mexico?

Lawler: Ha ha, are you sure he isn't the older brother of Slowpoke Rodriguez?

Smith: If they ever make a movie about him, they should get a Norteno or Sureno to play him. Wow, nice steal...those Mexicans can really steal the ball, can't they?

Ogey, do you see anything offensive about that exchange?

Matt Rafat said...

Sometimes, a person writes a comment that I find interesting. Here is one such comment, from Jeremy (, comment 2439):

"Normally I don't engage in the squabbles that break out in forums, but I can't let this stand. I am American and I'm absolutely proud of it. I can't imagine a person from any nation NOT being just as proud of their nationality whether its Canadian or Iranian or whatever. Its part of patriotism and it used to be important to us Americans. It was important when one of my grandfathers fought the Japanese and the other fought the Germans. That was because the survival of the nation depended on it. Patriotism is most prevalent during periods of intense struggle which we don't really have any more in America. We can rely on constant power and water in our homes, cellular telephones, internet, food in our refrigerators, and gasoline in our cars. We don't have to worry about a bomb exploding in the office we work in. The closest we came was on 9/11, and shortly after that tragic event patriotism became nothing more than a t-shirt slogan.

To all Iranians who read this: I hope you realize that only the most attention-deprived and uneducated of Americans choose to display their ignorance so blatantly as to show it on this forum. Please do not glorify them with a response. Our politicians may disagree with yours and our countries might have opposing goals, but we are all human beings. It is my most sincere hope that one day all mankind can work and live in peace with one another.

To all Americans who read this: Go ahead and flame me all you want. I'm not going to bother to read any responses to this anyway. But I want you to remember, the only thing that kept you from being born in another country was random chance. If being born in America was something one had to earn, I dare say that most of us would fall short of being worthy of this wonderful country of ours. Rather than condemn other nationalities we should focus on restoring our nation to its previous glory and our reputation to its previous prestige. The world laughs at us because we speak of what we know nothing about. Everyone thinks that they are experts on global affairs. We talk about nuclear destruction like it was a monster truck rally, then we @#$% because we think all "a-rabs" want to destroy us. I would be the first one in line to defend America from those who would do it harm, but our hypocrisy and ignorance saddens me.

Persia had advanced medicine, engineering, a vast economy, navigation, and written language while our people were still wearing loincloths and living in huts. It was only because of the crusades that we were able to learn from the arabic people and advance our own knowledge. I'll also remind you that all of the crusades failed, except the Reconquista, which should show you the military superiority of the Moors at that time. We copied their method of tempering steel for weapons (called Damascus steel) which is still used today and was the basis for pretty much all western industry since durable steel is necessary for any type of machinery. We learned all sorts of mathematics from them as well. Our system of numbering IS called ARABIC numerals.

Also, you should remember that our nuclear program wouldn't have been possible without the work of Albert Einstein who was GERMAN as well as other multinational scientists. Also, our rocket technology, which is the method of delivery for a nuclear warhead, was developed from German scientists who were recruited after the Nazi regime fell. Russia also recruited many of those scientists and developed almost identical technology. The telephone was first invented my an Italian-American named Meucci, but he could not afford the $10 to renew the patent before Bell patented his telephone two years later. In short, America would not be so great without the rest of the world's contributions."

Eric said...

Haha, You are an outright idiot as Eugene so eloquently stated.

Hammadi said that he saw it was taken out of context.

ALL that happened that caused ONE person to complain was that IRANIAN was mis-pronounced.

OH MY GOSH, SOMEONE MISPRONOUNCED SOMETHING, that is no reason to get your panties all tied up in a wad.

Have you ever heard of regional dialects or differentiations in speech from person to person??

I sure have, and I know for a fact that people pronounce stuff differently based on where they are and I even know people that pronoune iRAN (with a little i sound) as Eye-ran(a big I sound).

It was not racism, even the basketball player knows that and said that people misconstrued what the announcers said and realize they meant no harm and are not racist. OBVIOUSLY Hammadi, is smarter than you and any one else that is complaining.

There was one loser person that complained, that is it.

And the rest of the stuff was just comedy, and Hammadi realized that also.

Matt Rafat said...

Eric, you appear to be literate, but you obviously didn't read my post. I clearly said that the announcers' most offensive comment was comparing Haddadi to Borat: Smith said, “You’re sure it’s not Borat’s older brother?”

Standing alone, a mispronunciation isn't a big deal; however, when it precedes a comparison to Borat, it reveals a pattern of disrespecting someone based on his national origin.

Most reasonable people agree that denigrating a person because of his national origin isn't acceptable in the workplace or in polite society. Sadly, the announcers' comments represent yet another new low for the L.A. Clippers organization.

Who Cares? said...

The guy looks a lot like Borat. Who cares. Post something that matters, this is a non-story.

Joel said...

K_Yew, you're not an idiot. You're a successful pitchman, as you have succeeded in moving traffic from Yahoo to your post. For that, I applaud you.

For your article, however, you don't even get out of the first paragraph without screwing up: the total population of Iranian-Americans in the entire U.S. is well under 1 million (according to the U.S. Census and MIT), with around 50% coming from the state of California, and there is a large contigency of Iranian-Americans in San Francisco. If your other comments are to be taken seriously, then you should take 5 minutes to research abstracts. That's jounalism 101.

As to the Borat allusion, who knows what they meant? I agree that it was irrelevant and irreverant for them to improv these statements. But, for the life of me, I can't see why you call for them to be fired. What a whiner.

Example: After the Notre Dame/Stanford game Saturday, I watched a local L.A. sports show ABC7. One of the broadcasters said (referring to the punch Jimmie Clausen received by a "fan" outside a bar) that the action was "a typical Irish move, knock back a few Jamisons and punch someone in the face." Yeah, we Irish people are just dumb, loud, drunks who like to fight, huh? Ireland is one of the smallest consumers of alcohol in Europe, but it's okay to depict us as drunks because we're white. Right? You see, where you err and show that you are at heart resentful and a racist, is when you throw all people of light pigment into one category, white. There is no "majority" other than maybe people of English descent. I don't walk around thinking of myself as white. Even being a total minority in L.A., I still don't focus on my color. I focus on my culture. As for the comment on ABC7, I called and emailed the station, but will be shocked if I even get a response, much less an apology. But I don't want the guy to get fired.

That's why we as "the whities" resent all these racism missives because it is so one-sided and ludicrous. You think we have it made. In reality, there are many more "white" people in poverty and disadvantaged as other groups. I grew up lower middle class and worked two jobs to get through college because my parents couldn't afford to help me. My roommate was "black" and got a total free ride from the United Negroe College Fund and other aid. He got so much money that he went out and bought a new car with the extra. I was never bitter at him (I didn't have time to be.). I loved him; he was a nice guy who worked a system slanted totally in his favor. (It is absolutely racist to give special help to someone because of race.) But then I hear people like you and some other bloggers talk about the "minorities" in this country, how bad it is for them. Insane. This is why you get comments like Eugene's. You need to get out in the world a little more (I mean, the real one, not the university one). Don't get me wrong, I don't want you to shut up or stop writing. Just live a little more. Walk a little longer in someone else's shoes, even if the shoes belong to a mean ol' white man, and then maybe you'll realize that every man has his cross to bear, and if Hadiddi's (SP?) is a comparison to a Jew playing a Muslim (Borat), well then so be it. Maybe this Eye-ranian will give it one thought as he cashes his multi million dollar paycheck (that is dollar, as in American dollar).

Matt Rafat said...

Joel, thank you for your comment. Two quick points:

1. The Census is notorious for under-counting minorities. The Census survey also lacks a separate box for Iranian-Americans or Persians and classifies Middle Eastern persons as "Caucasian." As a result, most Iranians check "Caucasian" on the Census surveys, skewing the results. I agree, however, that the one million number is only an estimate. The 2010 Census, if done properly, may shed more light on the actual number of Persians in America.

2. I never condoned or mentioned the Clausen incident. Condemning one instance of racism does not mean I accept racist remarks about Irish-Americans. I merely chose to focus on the Haddadi incident because I feel sad that a person who seems like a good, kind man was subjected to these comments (I have met Haddadi before).

Your comments about a completely different incident are not relevant here. They remind me of the following, written by Johann Hari:

"There is one particular type of bad argument that has always existed, but it has now spread like tar over the world-wide web. It is known as "what-aboutery."

When you have lost an argument -- when you can't justify your case, and it is crumbling in your hands - you snap back: "But what about x?" You then raise a totally different subject, and try to get everybody to focus on it -- hoping it will distract attention from your own deflated case."

Joel said...

Thanks for posting my comment, K_Yew. A little rebuttal and then it's yours. A couple points:

1) the actual number given from the U.S. Census Bureau, and upheld in an independent study by M.I.T., for Iranian Americans was around 600,000. I added a few hundred thousand, taking into consideration other factors, like the Persian American Market's estimate. So I think my numbers are fairly accurate--everyone claims that their numbers are under-represented. And there you go again with your "minorities" allusion. The reason "minorities" complain about undercounting has nothing to do with accuracy and everything to do with squeezing more money out of the government.

2) You missed the entire point regarding Jimmie Clausen (and let me turn the tables on you and say that I find your lack of reporting on Clausen to be because you are racist toward white people--not really, but see how ludicrous this gets?). Did you even read my missive? Or did you miss it, K? ;O)The point is not "What about Jimmie?" The point is that your charge of racism is erroneous and just plain whining.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I would venture to guess that you are of Persian descent and are therefore sensitive to issues pertinent to this group. That's fine; but don't let your sensitivity cloud your judgement. You write with a resentful tone towards "white" people (cleverly disguised as "majority") and tend to depict "minorities" as victims. My point was that the call for the resignation of the broadcasters is whining. For God's sake, read the transcript again. There's barely a reason for an apology, let alone disciplinary action against the guys.

I think you have more of a resentment towards Borat than the average American. Borat was created by Sasha Cohen, a Jew. Borat is from a Muslim background and despises Jews. This apparantly makes Muslims angry, but no one in the midtown U.S.A. gets the anger. I'm an actor and I didn't even see Borat as negative towards Muslim people. Actually, the character is loveable. People watch this over and over because they love to see Borat get himself into all kinds of crazy situations, embarrassing many Americans along the way. The reason the broadcasters put Borat and Hadaddi together is because of their geographical proximity and, frankly, they look alike.

K, my point about racism is that people like you only make things worse when you call or allude to something this insignificant as racism. You and your left leaning cohorts have cried wolf so much that the average "white" American is disgusted by it.

Oh, and K., nice Hari quotation. Huffinton and the Independent will be proud of you. Too bad it doesn't work here. Maybe you can squeeze it into your persuasive speech in Debate 101. But I appreciate you giving me a platform to voice, or type, my opinion.

Joel said...

By the way, K., the article by Hari titled "The Dark Side of Dubai" is brilliant and was prophetic.

Matt Rafat said...

Joel, you say: The reason “minorities” complain about undercounting has nothing to do with accuracy and everything to do with squeezing more money out of the government.

Actually, it has to do with political representation. I am unaware of a large number of Iranians on welfare or receiving federal funds. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, Iranian-Americans are “among the most educated of all immigrants” and “are one of America's wealthiest immigrant communities per capita, according to demographers who crunch U.S. census data.”

You say: “your charge of racism is erroneous and just plain whining.”

Joel, you are not making an argument. You are just stating your own subjective conclusions. In your mind, sticking up for Haddadi’s right to be treated with respect and dignity–regardless of his place of birth–somehow means being resentful towards white people. I don’t see how you get from Point A to, well, Never-never-land.

Matt Rafat said...

You say: “I think you have more of a resentment towards Borat than the average American. Borat was created by Sasha Cohen, a Jew. Borat is from a Muslim background...”

Joel, this might surprise you, but I happen to like Cohen (particularly his Ali G interview with Steve Nash). Cohen’s religious background has no relevance to the announcers’ comments. In fact, no one mentioned religion until you brought it up (yet another attempt to go off-topic, eh? Paging Hari... :-)

We can disagree about our interpretation of Borat, but one thing is certain: the character is unprofessional, over-the-top, and lacks basic cultural understanding. In contrast, Haddadi is professional, calm, and has managed to do quite well in the United States. As a result, the comparison was insulting, especially because of Haddadi’s Jackie-Robinson-type status as the first Iranian NBA player.

You say: “You and your left leaning cohorts have cried wolf so much that the average "white" American is disgusted by it.”

Joel, I am not sure why you equate respecting a man regardless of his birthplace with “whining.” Last time I checked, most Americans believe in the American Dream–that anyone, from anyplace, can come here and make something of himself. That’s exactly what Haddadi is doing--reaching for the American Dream, and doing so with dignity and class. Shame on you if you call yourself an American and can’t see a problem with the way the announcers singled him out because of his birthplace and ethnicity.

Eric said...

You also appear to be literate, and if you looked at the full article you would see

"He's totally aware,” Lawler said of Haddadi. “He had read the transcript, he had seen the video and was perfectly fine with it.”

catch that? "perfectly fine with it"

if that alone does not invalidate your argument of racism then this should.

“He basically indicated that he’s seen a number of our shows and thought that some people kind of took what we said out of context. He understood there were no ill intentions and understood our humor.”

"some people took what we said out of context"

and "[Hammadi] understood our humor"

I am just saying if the person supposedly insulted does not feel insulted and understood the HUMOR, then I do not see any foul play.

Also, the complaint was filed for the probably accidental mispronunciation of Iran, not the Borat remark.

Regardless, race jokes are made all of the time, and in this day and age people should realize it is okay to make race jokes since it is JUST A JOKE. Clearly Hammadi understands this, not everything is racist as some would have us believe.

Matt Rafat said...

Eric, I addressed Haddadi's classy response in my post: "[W]hat else could Haddadi do but be gracious in the face of overt racism and crassness?"

First, remember that you are referencing hearsay. The comments you reference come from Lawler, not Haddadi. I don't see Haddadi publicly saying he has no problem with the announcers' comments. I do agree, however, that Haddadi probably wants to move on and forget about this incident so he can focus on basketball.

Second, Haddadi's acceptance of the remarks does not mean he believes the announcers' remarks were appropriate. It just means Haddadi chose to turn the other cheek: "Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you." Surely reasonable people can agree that acting Christ-like doesn't mean a person approves of the Romans' conduct.

Bottom line: the announcers acted inappropriately. Haddadi forgave them and acted charitably. Haddadi's willingness to speak to the announcers and be charitable doesn't mean he isn't upset--it may just mean that he isn't willing to publicize his disgust.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that mispronouncing the word "Iranian" was done intentionally. Quite honestly, until recently, I really didn't know the proper pronunciation. And I consider myself to be culturally sensitive.

However, if you as Iranian-American find the pronunciation to be offensive, I defer to your opinion.

I agree that Lawler and Smith were out of line in comparing Haddai to Borat. It's like saying: Isn't Michael Jordan Will Smith's older brother? It's akin to saying that all black folks look alike.

We wouldn't tolerate such out and out bigotry against African-Americans and we shouldn't tolerate such bigotry against Iranian-Americans.

And it really doesn't matter whether there are 1,000,000 or 600,000 Iranians in our nation. Your size as a group shouldn't matter. What matters is that the comments were wrong. Period.

Finally, if you're serious about Lawler and Smith resigning, you should organize a petition, make phone calls and do what it takes to get your message out.

Rush Limbaugh was soundly defeated when he tried to purchase the St. Louis Rams. People organized and fought back.

You have the power to make change. Now is the time to exercise it.

Unknown said...

Well, he certainly looks somewhat similar to Borat to me. What other well-known movie character / actor would be a relevant comparison that would be picked up by the audience? The best I can come up with off the top of my head would be John Turturro but 1) I doubt many people would know the actor purely by name (I enjoy his work and I certainly wouldn't have) and 2) SBC is probably taller than JT, so he has that going for him.

Having watched the clip I understand being upset that with some aspects of what they said, but I seriously doubt anyone who would be amused, or at least not bothered, by their other comments would be looking for the subtleties implied in the comparison.

Matt Rafat said...

Although I see few physical similarities, there is obviously nothing wrong with comparing Haddadi to John Turturro. Mr. Turturro is a well-known actor (in fact, one of my favorite films is The Big Lebowski). In this case, however, the announcers compared Haddadi to a fictional character that is clueless, unprofessional, and idiotic.

Also, it is reasonable to assume that the announcers knew both Haddadi and the Borat character come from Muslim-majority countries in/near the Middle East. Thus, any reasonable person can understand that these religious and ethnic/geographical similarities were the inspiration behind the announcers' so-called jokes.

If you don't see any major differences between Borat and Mr. Turturro, you have somehow confused Borat--an idiot who lacks class--with a respected actor. It's that kind of massive leap of faith and/or wishful thinking that is required to support the Clippers announcers.

Eric said...

For Christ's sake, Haddadi said he UNDERSTOOD THE HUMOR.

Have you ever heard of a joke.

Stop being so negative.

Live life and enjoy it.

I know black people that say white jokes, and I am white and I say black jokes. Usually in mixed company.

No one thinks it is racist since in this day and age MATURE people are past racism and see a JOKE as a JOKE.

I am able to laugh at a good joke about my skin color, so are my black friends, and asian friends, and apparently, so is Haddadi.

Anonymous said...

Haha, "it is reasonable to assume that the announcers knew both Haddadi and the Borat character come from Muslim-majority countries in/near the Middle East. Thus, any reasonable person can understand that these religious and ethnic/geographical similarities were the inspiration behind the announcers' so-called jokes."

You have got to be kidding me.

Any reasonable person would say "Yeah they do look sort of similar"

People have said I look like someone before, that DOES NOT MEAN I have the same personality and religion as that person.

Any reasonable person would realize comparing a person's appearance with another's does not mean it is racist and targets their homeland/religion.

If you look like someone, then you look like someone. Big Deal.

Unknown said...


I believe I will let you argue with yourself for a bit.

"Sacha's mother is Israeli-Iranian (of Persian ethnic ancestry, born in Israel), and his father is Welsh. I always thought Sacha Baron Cohen looked Iranian, but I hadn't checked his background until now."

Now we've established that SBC is *clearly* a more appropriate choice of actor to play Haddadi than JT (and Borat being SBC's character that looks the most like Haddadi, including when SBC is "himself"). I'd also add that, while Borat's home country is overwhelmingly Muslim (of a *different* denomination from Iran, I might add), no one can claim that Borat can be taken as a representative of *any* form of Islam.

The more I look the more apt the suggestion appears. I think what the announcers said was inappropriate but I honestly feel you're focusing on the weakest part of what they said.

Matt Rafat said...

Eric, as I said, you are relying on hearsay and self-serving statements made by Lawler.

Haddadi has _not_ publicly made any statements indicating his approval of Lawler's and Smith's comments.

"Turning the other cheek" doesn't say anything about Haddadi's true feelings. Consider this: if baseball announcers compared Jackie Robinson to the cartoonish Sambo, would you be okay with that?

Matt Rafat said...

Anonymous, we will have to agree to disagree. It's fairly clear to me that one reason the announcers made the association between Haddadi and Borat is due to their similar ethnic/geographical background. They could have just referred to John Turturro. They didn't. They could have just mentioned Sacha Cohen. They didn't. Instead, they brought up a fictional character that is about three shades lighter than Haddadi and a foot smaller.

Would you be okay if an announcer compared Jackie Robinson to the cartoonish Sambo caricature? After all, both Sambo and Jackie Robinson are black and African-American.

Matt Rafat said...

Jamie, I said Sacha Cohen looked Iranian--I never said Borat looked Iranian.

I am sure you understand the difference between a made-up character and a real-life human being. Cohen is a master of disguise. When he creates characters, they look nothing like each other or himself. For example, what if I said you remind me of Bruno? Do you think that's the same thing as reminding you of Sacha Cohen?

The reason Clippers defenders like to bring up the "All Iranian people look alike, don't they" angle is because it's subjective. However, reasonable people must agree that Borat is at least a foot smaller than Haddadi; Borat is several shades lighter than Haddadi; Borat has a mustache, Haddadi does not; and Haddadi has the slender and muscular body of a professional athlete, while Borat has an average body type.

As far as I'm concerned, comparing an Iranian to Borat is similar to comparing Jackie Robinson to Sambo. Let's just use your own argument to justify the comparison: they are both originally African; they have the same basic skin color (though a different shade); and one is a professional athlete, one is a caricature. Yet, I am certain you can see the problem with comparing Jackie Robinson with Sambo.

Matt Rafat said...

Jamie, you may say, "Comparing Robinson to Sambo is ridiculous! Sambo is a cartoon, and Borat is still a human being." What you fail to understand is that both Sambo and Borat are exaggerated racial caricatures used to denigrate people. Also, remember that physical comparisons are subjective, so a Sambo-Robinson comparison holds just as much weight as a Borat-Haddadi one.

If the announcers believed Sacha Cohen looked like Hamed Haddadi, all they had to say was, "Gee, that looks like Sacha Cohen's older brother, doesn't it? Cohen, of course, played memorable characters such as Bruno, Ali G, and Borat, among others." There's nothing wrong with comparing someone to a famous actor.

Instead, the announcers deliberately chose to compare Haddadi to a classless idiot, not a famous actor like Turturro or Cohen. They thought it was funny, just as I'm just sure many people today believe jokes about black people looking alike are funny.

Anyway, you say, "I honestly feel you're focusing on the weakest part of what they said." Please clarify. Is that the part where Lawler says, "I guess those Iranians can pass the ball"? In other words, Lawler reduces Haddadi not just to a boorish fictional character, but also implies an entire race of people can't pass a basketball? I saw that, too.

I chose to focus on the Borat remark because (at least to me), it felt worse. But you are right. Both comments rely on a negative and unfounded racial/ethnic stereotype, i.e., all Iranians are clueless idiots like Borat; and Iranians can't pass a basketball, so how nice to see an Iranian pass the ball so well.

Eric said...

Who is John Turturro?

I have never heard of him, and I doubt many people have.

So, yet again I think Borat was a better allusion.

"Sambo" is that of a happy-go-lucky, clueless, head-scratching black man. The voice is usually high and the syntax elementary.

I think that is far more racist than a Borat remark.

For christ's sake, Borat is played by a Jew, that acts like a Muslim that hates Jews. I hardly see that as a racist caricature, more like a joke if anything.

"Implying an ENTIRE RACE of Iranians can't pass the ball"

Okay, you are WAY off the mark.

IT WAS A COMPLIMENT. He said " Nice...pass. I guess those Iranians can pass"

I do not see how that is racist at all.

Matt Rafat said...

[Sarcasm alert] Eric, you white people from Texas write really well. I am impressed. By the way, are you from the real Texas? That Texas?

Eric, to be consistent, you must agree I am complimenting you and all white Texans. I hope you white Texans don't consider these comments offensive on the basis of your national origin and race. I am just joking, okay? [End of sarcasm alert.]

Anyway, Jamie, you may have thought the most offensive comments were: "That Iran? The real Iran?" I knew they were being demeaning, but I didn't quite understand the point of that exchange. I'd never say, "America? That America? The real one?" Can someone explain that one to me? I'm not used to people pretending a 3000 years old civilization is fake.

Matt Rafat said...

Someone explained the "That Iran? The real Iran?" comment to me.

"They [the announcers] were incredulous, since Iran is in the Axis of Evil and almost on another planet, like North Korea. You mean a guy from Iran actually came to the U.S.?"

He says the announcers' comments might be called "xenophobic," but not racist.

Eric said...

Yeah I was about to say that those statement's appeared to be more like expressions of incredulity, not racism and sarcasm.

I believe that the announcers respect Haddadi and what they said has been misconstrued as racism.

It was a simple mispronunciation which most likely could be attributed to regional dialect or how the people were raised.

Then the Borat remark was just comedy, since in their opinion the two LOOK similar(not act), and in no way was comparable to Sambo(a racial term, which Borat is not) in my personal opinion.

Finally, if the announcers could say that in Los Angeles (basically little Tehran) and get ONLY one complaint, I doubt that many, if any, people found it insulting, disparaging, racist, or any form of the above.

Matt Rafat said...

Eric, let me show you the consequences of what happens if we actually take your comments seriously.

You said, "race jokes are made all of the time, and...people should realize it is okay to make race jokes since it is JUST A JOKE."

[sarcasm alert] So following your "logic," it's okay to joke that Texans (like Acie Law, for example) sure can play basketball well...which is amazing, given the inbreeding that happens in the real South. You know, the real South. According to you, that comment isn't racist, because "it's just a joke." And I guarantee you if someone made such a joke about Acie Law, s/he'd be fired.

No one is saying that the announcers couldn't make such comments/jokes in their own home or among friends. For example, if a Texan or Haddadi paid for a ticket to a comedy club in California, and the comedian made fun of Iranians or Texans or some other national/state origin, that's fine--such comments are acceptable in a comedy club. But when you're at a professional event and people have paid considerable money to view a game, it is not acceptable to subject them to racial or race-based or "high-school" jokes (i.e., we are obviously visually impaired, so we think you look like Borat, and we are going to call you Borat).

The Iranian-American person who complained did so because his young son was there, and he obviously did not pay to have his family subjected to ignorant remarks about their ethnic origins. Nor did they pay to have someone compare a pioneering NBA player--who happens to share the same ethnicity--to an anti-Semitic, boorish character.

You also say that "MATURE people are past racism and see a JOKE as a JOKE." I'll tell you what--go to your job (if you have one) and start making jokes about you think your Mexican coworkers look like Frito Bandito. See what happens.

You keep talking about how only one person complained. First, the Clippers don't have very many fans who actually watch a full game. Second, a comment's inappropriateness is not based on the number of people who happen to complain about it. Are you saying that if the announcers compared Baron Davis to Sambo, and no one complained, the comment would be acceptable? Of course not. I am sure in the 1940's in Texas, plenty of announcers made racially insensitive comments about pioneering black players...and no one complained. Does that make the comments okay? Of course not.

Bottom line: the announcers' comments were ignorant, stupid, classless, and crass; also, the announcers excessively and unnecessarily focused on Haddadi's national origin and did not focus on any other player's national origin. We can disagree about whether the announcers' comments were racist, but reasonable people must agree their comments were unacceptable in a professional environment. And that, Eric, is the final word.

Anonymous said...

Ignorance Part 2 : Haddadi Issue

Nobody did mention it yet.