Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook got the 16 rebounds he needed Wednesday night to average a triple-double for a second straight season. He also had 20 rebounds and 19 assists, one of which elicited an excited call from Thunder play-by-play announcer Brian Davis.
Dan Mahoney, the Thunder’s vice president of broadcasting, told the Norman Transcript’s Fred Katz that Davis’s comment was “offensive and inappropriate,” and it will cost Davis one game at the scorers’ table.
The Thunder suspended Davis for one game on Friday. Matt Pinto, the team’s radio announcer, will fill in when Oklahoma City hosts Utah in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Sunday night.
“We think obviously the use of that term was offensive and inappropriate, and I expressed that to Brian last night,” Mahoney said. “Brian assures me that it was not meant in any derogatory way, and he apologizes. But again, we feel strongly that it’s inappropriate and offensive.”
Davis accepted the suspension with “great remorse and humility,” he said in a statement to ESPN.
“While unintentional, I understand and acknowledge the gravity of the situation,” he said. “I offer my sincere apology and realize that, while I committed a lapse in judgment, such mistakes come with consequences. This is an appropriate consequence for my actions.”
Davis is a full-time Thunder employee, according to Katz. He has been the team’s television play-by-play voice since it arrived in Oklahoma City in 2008, previously working as a radio and television host and reporter in Chicago and Seattle. He has also been the radio voice of the Seattle Seahawks, and has called games for the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Fire. It’s unknown whether he will address the comment on a future broadcast.
The use of “cotton-picking” as an adjective has mostly fallen from use, likely because of its surface connections to a time when black slaves picked cotton in the United States. But according to essayist Heather Michon, the phrase arose in the 17th century “to describe a nuisance or something troublesome or unpleasant.” At the time, cotton was picked by both white and black people in what would eventually become the American South.
“Cotton picking was hot, dirty, nasty work. It had little or no connection to slavery at that point in history, because wide-scale cotton cultivation was not really feasible until the development of the cotton gin in very last years of the 18th Century,” she wrote in 2011, when the phrase sparked a minor uproar in Canada after a member of that country’s Senate used it.
“ ‘Cotton-picking’ stayed in the language and eventually became a slang for ‘God-damn’ or ‘damn’ or any number of less polite swear words, and so it survived into modern times,” Michon continued. “It was heavily used in cowboy movies in the early decades of motion pictures, when swearing on-screen was still taboo. I suspect many of us first heard it in Bugs Bunny cartoons.”
In 2010, CNN host Rick Sanchez quickly apologized after referring to President Barack Obama as “the cotton-picking president of the United States!” Sanchez actually was defending Obama when he used the phrase.
“He is the cotton picking president of the United States!” Sanchez said, asking why falsehoods about Obama had persisted. “If the president of the United States doesn’t have enough of a bully pulpit to convince people that … a lie is a lie … what the hell is going on here?”
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