Across political, cultural, and geographic lines, most people will agree that changes to this thing, which in English we call humanity, are necessary, and also likely to never happen. Our natural instinct is to judge quickly, taking into account none of our biases and prejudices, and link up with people who share our views to attack those who don’t.
One place where it comes out, is when a man is accused of abusing or assaulting a woman. For years, unless a man is sent to jail for a widely approved reason, when issues regarding his treatment of a woman arise, the default position many times is that the woman plays a major — if not the main — role in whatever happened.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski had a virtual trademark stamped all over his report that Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was facing disciplinary action for an unspecified violation of organizational guidelines. Shams Charania later reported that it was a consensual relationship between Udoka and a Celtics female employee that resulted in a need for punishment.
Details about the situation have been quite murky since then, but then there was the full Charania report which revealed that while Udoka had been involved in a consensual relationship with a female team employee, she informed the team that Udoka had made unwanted comments toward her. Yes, The Athletic is behind a paywall, but that part of the story did make it onto social media.
Speaking of social media, a place where it’s hard to tell who is even a real person behind the profile pics, of course, that space was going to handle a situation in which a woman was allegedly mistreated by a man — a Black man specifically — in a wretched way. With little information to go on, the Twitter accounts have been buzzing since last week, and in recent days the stingers have been out and aimed at ESPN’s Malika Andrews.
She called into First Take last Thursday when she didn’t appreciate what Stephen A. Smith said early in the program. He spent 20 seconds of his opening remarks victim blaming, regardless of his intent. He literally asked this rhetorical question: “Was Ime Udoka involved with himself?”
Charania’s report came out on that Tuesday that let people know about the alleged unwanted comments. Celtics team owner Wyc Grousbeck said twice in his press conference that no discipline for other Celtics employees was being considered. Andrews was correct. There was no need to open up further reckless speculation by asking questions about the woman’s role in the situation. That’s why she corrected Kendrick Perkins on NBA Today. Unless more information is released, the Celtics’ investigation — conducted by an outside law firm — now complete, concluded that Udoka was in the wrong. Let’s not break out our “what was she wearing,” “why was she there at that hour,” and “what did she say” swords.
Andrews also caught some heat for bringing up the past of the Celtics’ interim coach, Joe Mazzulla, also a Black man. In 2009, as a college player at West Virginia, he was charged with domestic violence for allegedly choking a woman at a bar. The case was settled out of court, and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins suspended him. However, the incident happened in April, just after the season had ended. Mazzulla was reinstated the next season and did not miss a single game.
Maybe Andrews didn’t have to also mention the underage drinking ticket as well, but it does become more relevant since the incident that resulted in him being charged took place at a bar, and he was still under the legal drinking age of 21. Also, sure the past is in the past, but with the general lack of thoroughness in the way incidents in which men were accused of mistreating women were investigated for basically all of human history, it’s always relevant to at least bring up. The man has the right to change, or claim his innocence, but we also have the right to want to know if he did do something wrong and that he has sincerely tried to change his ways.
All of you with your disingenuous and hateful comments about Andrews from Outkick and Tariq Nasheed, to anyone with a pulse behind any of the accounts spewing venom at her or posting any information about the woman who Udoka had a relationship with, every one of you is a problem. Not problematic. You are very much the problem.
All that being said, one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is, “It may be true that a law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important, also.”
Unfortunately, human beings have proved, en masse, for thousands of years that we can’t be trusted. We’re irrational, easily frightened, don’t like correction, and susceptible to mob mentality. That’s just who we are, but for those sitting in places outside of the mob, it’s your responsibility to not stoke it. As we saw on Jan. 6, 2021, words from perceived authoritative figures can mobilize people to do terrible things.
That is why Perkins and Smith deserved to be called out for what they said, but I wish it had been someone else that did so. A white man would’ve been best, but any man would do.
Andrews putting her neck out there opened her up to the worst of what social media has to offer. She got all of the Uncle Tom treatment. People called her a misandrist and went through past statements to make up a half-ass theory that she hates Black men. Then of course one of Clay Travis’ acolytes, Bobby Burack, came along with his fertilizer claiming this is proof that “left-wing Twitter” and “corporate press” don’t like people of color “thinking for themselves.”
The problem here is that too many people are looking for a reason to blame women when a man was in the wrong. Smith and Perkins should not have raised any questions as to why the woman was getting punished. The only information that anyone has is that Udoka should not have done what he did.
And the blame shouldn’t stop with those two. Wojnarowski and Charania got this information from somewhere. Udoka is a CAA client, and as Ethan Strauss has pointed out many times, Woj is also a CAA client, and his tone is different when dealing with people in the NBA who are members of the same agency as he is. It was Woj who originally put the information out that Udoka was facing punishment, and offered no information as to why. He got all the wheels turning on this story, which on one hand is why ESPN pays him an astronomical sum of money. He did tweet out, after Charania originally did, that issue was a consensual workplace relationship, but it was still Wojnarowski who lit a fuse that led to an explosion that blew up in the face of many people who did not ask for it.
There is also some blame that the Celtics need to share. This information about Udoka got out, and it didn’t happen in a controlled way. Grousbeck said in the press conference that they didn’t leak the news of Udoka facing punishment, but he also said that Udoka did not in any way object to being suspended for a minimum of one season.
Them being so cagey with information is surely due to legal issues, and, in their minds, protecting the victim. While that’s understandable, the victim’s information has probably already been put out there. People started attempting to sleuth out the woman Udoka was in a relationship with as soon as they found out about it. That led to many baseless posts about who the woman was. Some even included pictures.
The NBA just released a detailed report that explained why Robert Sarver was banned for a year, without naming any names. If nothing else, at least that is transparency, and we have no reason to question their judgment. The Celtics are basically saying, “We got this. Trust us. We did the work.” They know that’s not good enough to satiate the public. The less open they are with us, the more bias contaminates the commentary around this, and the more people get hurt. And why should anyone blindly trust them? Their starting center was rushed back from injury, and they said he was good to play. Now he won’t be on the floor to start the season with the same injury.
Of course, the masses need to act better. They always have, and likely will for as much time as this planet has left in its existence. But the people who are in positions to control information and influence thought need to be aware of that at all times. Otherwise, in addition to the victim, there will always be women like Malika Andrews and those Celtics employees who also suffer because a human went full human.