ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: Cuban Statement Not Offensive

Draws sharp distinction between Cuban and Sterling

On Pardon the Interruption Thursday, Michael Wilbon defended Mark Cuban's remarks to Inc. magazine and absolved him of charges of racism, arguing his “black kid in a hoodie” anology was not a deliberate reference to Trayvon Martin and sharply distinguishing between Cuban’s admission of prejudice and that exhibited by Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

After playing an excerpt of Cuban’s interview with Inc. magazine, Kornheiser asked Wilbon if he found anything in the statement offensive. Wilbon responded, “No," explaining that in the context of the remarks it was clear that Cuban condemned racism and bigotry:

Wilbon: I talked to Mark Cuban today and he said if he had to do it over again, he would not use that particular analogy out of respect to Trayvon Martin's family, and apologize to them if they are at all offended. But I don't see the offense here because he talks about what he does when he finds racism around him in his own companies. He doesn't want to throw the baby out with the bath water, if you know what I mean. I don't necessarily agree with that all the time. I sometimes want to throw the offending partner out—Donald Sterling—but I understand where Mark is going and I'm not offended.

Kornheiser agreed, though he referenced one fellow ESPN employee who was offended due to the general nature of the “black kid in a hoodie” reference compared to the more specific description of the “white guy” with a bald head and tattoo.

Wilbon then called for greater patience and leniency in dealing with the “emotional issue” of racism and bigotry:

Wilbon: This is an emotional issue. Anytime you talk about race and bigotry and racism, tamp down the emotion and listen to what Mark Cuban said. Don't just hear what you want to hear. He rejected the notion of bigotry anywhere in his life. [...] I think people are going to be offended if they want to be, but if they listen to the whole in context -- By the way, Donald Sterling has been using offensive, bigoted language for 30 years.

Kornheiser pointed out that he was surprised some high-profile NBA figures—like Lebron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Johnson, and Adam Silver—who could have "saved" Cuban chose not to, to which Wilbon said, “Saved from what? Saved from renouncing bigotry?”

Here is the text of the key section of Cuban’s Inc. magazine interview:

Cuban: In this day and age, this country has really come a long way putting any type of bigotry behind us, regardless of who it's toward. We've come a long way and with that progress comes a price. We're a lot more vigilant and we're a lot less tolerant of different views, and it's not necessarily easy for everybody to adapt or evolve.

I mean, we're all prejudiced in one 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. 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. So in my businesses, I try not to be hypocritical. I know that I'm not perfect. I know that I live in a glass house, and it's not appropriate for me to throw stones.