Minnesota lawmaker’s NBA tweet draws accusations of racism

March 10, 2014

A tweet by a Minnesota state representative linking crime and NBA players prompted a flurry of responses Sunday evening, with many calling the comment racist.

In a tweet that has been retweeted over 1,000 times and favorited over 220, Pat Garofalo, a Republican representative from Farmington, Minn., said that:

The tweet spread quickly across social media, with several responses pointing out that politicians have been arrested, too.

Garofalo, for a while, answered responses to his tweet.

Another noted that the crime rate is higher overall in the NFL, which drew a response from Garofalo.

Garofalo, who is serving his fifth term in the state legislature, was last in national headlines for “questioning a provision in the lease for the new Minnesota Vikings stadium that prohibits gun shops from being vendors in the new facility,” according to the Pioneer Press. On Sunday afternoon, he had been tweeting about the NASCAR race and Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he made his NBA observation. “I reject that any criticism of athletes and their conduct is somehow racist,” Garofalo told KARE 11 in the Twin Cities, adding that not all NBA players are black.  “I was talking about the NBA’s high arrest rate.”

Garofalo said he was criticizing the attitude of pro athletes generally.

“I really don’t understand how being critical of a culture of pro athletes has anything to do with race,” Garofalo said. “This is a behavior that transcends the race of the athlete, and it seems to be a culture in all professional sports these days.”

He explained (via Star-Tribune.com) that he was “talking about NBA’s high arrest rate and that they are the only major pro league that testing positive for marijuana is not a substance abuse violation.”

There was, he added, “no intent beyond that.”

In an email response to a request for elaboration from Deadspin’s Tim Marchman, Garofalo wrote:

Hi Tim. Thanks for the email and for giving me a chance to respond. I was talking about the NBA’s high arrest rate and that their punishment for positive drugs tests are weaker than other leagues. No intent beyond that. The culture among many pro athletes that they are above the law is the problem, not people like me pointing that problem out.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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