Before the NBA announced that it would attempt to force Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban commented that while Sterling’s remarks were “abhorrent,” booting him from the league is “a very, very slippery slope.” This week, he got to experience a bit of that “slippery slope” himself. In an interview with Inc. magazine and an appearance at its Growco Conference in Nashville, Cuban decided to share some nuanced thoughts about the state of racism in America. Unsurprisingly, it did not go well. By referencing “a black kid in a hoodie” while describing his own prejudices, Cuban managed to bring Trayvon Martin into the NBA’s current race controversy.
The offending remark came as Cuban tried to illustrate his point that “we’re all prejudiced in way or another.” “If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street,” he said. “And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face – white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere –I’m walking back to the other side of the street. And the list goes on of stereotypes that we all live up to and are fearful of.”
His overall message was that we should work on helping people move past their bigotries, rather than simply condemning them. “I know that I’m not perfect,” Cuban said. “I know that I live in a glass house and it’s not appropriate for me to throw stones. And so when I run into bigotry in organizations I control, I try to find solutions. I’ll work with people. I’ll send them to training, I’ll send them to sensitivity training. I’ll try to give them a chance to improve themselves.”
Cuban spent much of Thursday defending himself on Twitter, and arguing with those he felt had mischaracterized his remarks. However, at the end of the day he apologized for making what was interpreted as a reference to the slain 17-year-old, though he said he stood by the “substance” of his comments. He said in a series of tweets:
In hindsight I should have used different examples. I didn’t consider the Trayvon Martin family, and I apologize to them for that. … beyond apologizing to the Martin family, I stand by the words and substance of the interview … I think that helping people improve their lives, helping people engage with people they may fear or may not understand, … and helping people realize that while we all may have our prejudices and bigotries … we have to learn that it’s an issue that we have to control, that it’s part of my responsibility as an entrepreneur to try to solve it.
Aside from igniting a new round of discussion about racism and the NBA, Cuban’s remarks left many wondering how he’ll vote on June 3, when NBA owners will decide whether to oust Sterling from the league. While Cuban said he feels NBA Commissioner Adam Silver “had to do it,” he mentioned the “slippery slope” again and wouldn’t comment on how he’ll vote. “You can’t keep that ugliness out of the league. There’s no law against stupid – I learned that a long time ago,” Cuban said.