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Head of team resigns over racist comments ‘as stupid as they are offensive’

The president of Lithuania’s Lietuvos Rytas team has stepped down after his comments about black basketball players were condemned by a Lithuanian NBA player, EuroLeague Basketball and by the National Basketball Players Association, which called the statements by Gedvydas Vainauskas “as stupid as they are offensive.”

Vainauskas drew comparisons to Donald Sterling, who lost ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers when video surfaced of him making racist comments three years ago, when he said in a video interview that “bad things start to take place” when teams have more than two black players on the roster. His team, which had four black players, struggled, he said, because the athletes seemed to band together into “a gang” and that his coach likes “to control them, to teach them, to tutor them.”

“We’ve always held a stance that there shouldn’t be more than two black players on the team. What happened was that Coach Tomas Pacesas likes to play with black players — to control them, to teach them, to tutor them — and we ended up with four players that are black,” he said Thursday. “All of a sudden, they came together to form … how should I put it … a sort of a gang. It cannot be that way; no more than two black players — I can say that from my 23 years of experience in the business. Teams, don’t ever have more than two black players. Because that’s when bad things start to take place.”

Although he smiled before that the last sentence, there was plenty of outrage. Donatas Motiejunas, who plays for the New Orleans Pelicans, tweeted that he was ashamed. “It could look like it’s not our business but actually it is,” he wrote on Twitter. “People are talking about Lithuania as a racist country. Many friends are writing and asking me about that. I answer that we’re strictly against racism and condemn such words. It’s really hard to understand how people like him can run basketball teams. I feel ashamed for words said by Gedvydas Vainauskas.”

On Tuesday, the NBPA’s statement added: “Basketball is an institution that unites people around the world and it saddens us to see it tarnished by such racism. Unfortunately, this serves as a reminder of just how far we still must go in ridding the basketball community, and our society as a whole, of such hateful sentiments. In order to ensure that such bigotry is stamped out, we call upon FIBA [the International Basketball Federation] to take action so that this kind of hatred and racism is purged from professional basketball. FIBA has been presented with the opportunity to show the world that racial discrimination will not be tolerated within our sport and we truly hope they take full advantage of it.”

In a statement last week, EuroLeague said that “by no means” did Vainauskas represent “the sport of basketball, the European basketball family nor the EuroLeague Basketball organization at any level. On the contrary, European basketball has always been and will continue being an example of integration on and off the court, where cultures, races and religions have always come together under one passion, the sport of basketball. It is precisely these many cultures, languages, races and ways of understanding and living the sport which makes it a unique and enriching experience as well as a tool for bringing people together, people who have made history with some of the greatest performances in European basketball. The views expressed by Mr. Vainauskas are deeply offensive, harmful, and contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect.”

Video shows Donald Sterling telling girlfriend not to bring black people to games

EuroLeague added that it “strongly condemns any kind of discriminating comment or act of any kind against race, gender, sexuality or any other human condition.”

Vainauskas later apologized “if I was improperly understood.”

Donald Sterling banned for life

“While talking about the lessons learned during the last season, I had in my mind the situation with foreign players. The principal position of BC Lietuvos Rytas is that a basketball player first of all is a professional,” he said in a statement on the team’s website. “Unfortunately, a few our foreigners did not meet expectations of the club.

“During the playoffs they acted irresponsibly and that had a great negative impact on our team’s performance. In my interview, I expressed my disappointment about some of the foreign players selected for the season. I apologize, if I was improperly understood.”

Sterling got into trouble when video surfaced of him making racist comments to his girlfriend about bringing black people to games. He, too, had tried to explain away his problems only to be banned for life from the NBA and forced to sell the team.

H/T Ball Don’t Lie

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