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:
Let’s be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow nobody would notice a difference w/ possible exception of increase in streetcrime— Rep. Pat Garofalo (@PatGarofalo) March 9, 2014
The tweet spread quickly across social media, with several responses pointing out that politicians have been arrested, too.
@PatGarofalo the racial and racist undertones in this comment is beyond alarming.— Ryan Vernosh (@RyanVernosh) March 9, 2014
I don’t know if you’re as equally racist as you are in lacking self-awareness. either way, it’s astonishing to watch @PatGarofalo— DarkSkintDostoyevsky (@daniecal) March 9, 2014
Garofalo, for a while, answered responses to his tweet.
@PatGarofalo there’s more criminals in your profession than the nba buddy.— B-ball Jenky (@BBallJenky) March 9, 2014
Another noted that the crime rate is higher overall in the NFL, which drew a response from Garofalo.
.@ANewsIV Fair point. But then again NFL rosters are almost 5 times larger.— Rep. Pat Garofalo (@PatGarofalo) March 9, 2014
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.