- The Season's Over -

Why Does NBA TV Analyst Rick Kamla Still Have a Job After Calling Yi a “Chinaman”?

November 5, 2009

Rick Kamla

By Brian Spencer

What would happen if a white TV analyst “accidentally” referred to a black athlete as a “ni**er?” Think that would make national headlines? Think that TV analyst would still have a job almost a week after letting that bomb slip? Of course it would, and of course he or she wouldn’t.

So–and apologies for leading with so many questions–why is it, then, that NBA TV analyst Rick Kamla is still gainfully employed by NBA TV and Turner Sports after calling New Jersey Nets forward Yi Jianlian a “Chinaman” during a recap of last week’s Nets-Magic game? That recap, by the way, was available on NBA.com for almost a week before finally getting pulled down this morning. Tom Ziller on NBA FanHouse:

Turner Sports spokesman Jeff Pomeroy relayed to FanHouse an apology to anyone offended by the remark from Kamla and the network, which manages NBA TV and NBA.com. Pomeroy said Kamla was not aware of the connotations of the word, and meant nothing malicious or offensive by it.

Kamla’s ignorant slip is far less troubling than the fact this video was broadcast on NBA TV and had been available on NBA.com for five days. The NBA has made serious strides to reach out to all corners of America and to expand the league’s presence worldwide, with particular emphasis on Asia. Given the league’s emphasis on marketing product to Chinese Americans, for this to go unnoticed within the NBA’s digital arm for so long is disheartening.

So, let me get this straight: Kamla apologized under the guise that he didn’t know this was a racial slur and didn’t think it was offensive? Bullshit. If he’s that ignorant, he has no business being on national television and representing the NBA.

We exclusively deal in sports here at Empty the Bench, so I’ll spare you my soapbox rant about the double standards in this country when it comes to racial awareness. But I will say this: inappropriate, tasteless jokes directed at people of Asian descent are, for whatever reason, not viewed or dealt with with equal gravity. For example, former Detroit News columnist endured waves of criticism for asking then Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli if his daughter should have married a better defensive coordinator. (Joe Barry, the Lions’ former DC, is Marinelli’s son-in-law.) Eventually, Parker resigned. Unprofessional, to be sure, but nowhere near the level of Kamla’s assinine gaffe.

Yet, Kamla remains on the air for NBA TV after calling Jianlian a “Chinaman?” Unbelievable. Everybody makes mistakes, and I’m not out to crucify Kamla for his idiocy. But, sorry, he needs to be held accountable for his actions. It’s shocking that the NBA, a league with global ambitions and one that’s heavily invested in the Asian market particularly, would stand pat and allow this incident to essentially be swept under the rug. Oops, sorry, he didn’t mean it? Seriously?

Kamla should be suspended, and a look back at Shaq’s racist remarks after the break…

Then again, maybe the league’s lack of a sufficient response isn’t all that surprising. Shaquille O’Neal, still marketed as one of its stars, got a free pass on the many derogatory, insulting comments he used to make about Yao Ming:

“I look forward to breaking down that motherfucker’s body,” said O’Neal. “He said my name three times, two in Chinese and one in American. You don’t ever call me out. I’m from LSU.” (Yao never “called” him out)

“Wang Zhu, whatever your name is, you want some of shaq-fu, you come get it. I’ll be waiting for you.” (Video)

“Tell Yao Ming, ‘ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh.”‘

Brent Musburger and the Miami Heat got a pass too:

On Christmas Day, while calling the Celtics-Nets game for ABC, veteran sportscaster Brent Musburger lamented that “the hordes of China” might stuff the All-Star ballot box and vote Yao Ming in as the Western Conference’s starting center, rather than Shaquille O’Neal. Then, in “honor” of Yao’s first game in Miami, the Miami Heat on Dec. 16 passed out 8,000 fortune cookies to spectators. Yao found the promotion amusing but pointed out that fortune cookies have nothing to do with him.

Kamla should be suspended without pay, immediately, and have his status as NBA TV’s daily analyst reconsidered. Anything less on the part of the NBA and Turner Sports should be considered irresponsible, insufficient, and insulting. We urge all of our readers to contact the NBA League Office and demand that Kamla’s racist remarks be appropriately and immediately dealt with.

Addendum: I don’t think Kamla should take the entire fall for what amounts to a systemic attitude and problem within the United States towards people of Asian descent (nor do I think he should get off the hook because of said systemic issues). Normally, Kamla is a fairly innocuous figure in the NBA landscape who’s never given me or anyone else, as far as I know, reason to think he’s an out-and-out racist. Should he automatically lose his job because of this? No, probably not, especially since his comments weren’t delivered in a specifically malicious manner.

Still, like I said, he’s in a public position as a visible representative of the NBA, and what’s been said has been said. It was offensive, it was wrong, and it should be addressed. He deserves a suspension, and he should make a sincere public apology… not settle for a PR representative kinda sorta apologizing on his behalf. And David Stern, too, should probably be proactive about it and issue an apology for allowing this video to run on NBA.com for almost a week. Address it, dole out the appropriate measures, and let’s move on.

Photo via The Hoop Doctors.

66 Comments »Posted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 5, 2009 at 1:24 pm in NBA

66 Responses

Not defending Kamla, but if you watch him the past few years on NBATV you see that he’s a goofy guy and says alot of, just kinda goofy things. Not racial or insulting goofy stuff, but just goofy – I guess thats the only way I can put it. It’s part of his personality I guess, not to say what he said about Yi is ok by any means but I really don’t think he meant to insult Yi or anybody at all, just something that came out of his own stupidity and was unintentional. I think the NBA and other professional athletes, say worse things, maybe not on air like he did, but on the playing field/court/etc. I think the things SHAQ said and has said in the past are FAR worse.

Suspended? Perhaps – I can’t believe the NBA left the clip online for so long.

Posted by: jake on November 5th, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Hi Jake,

Appreciate your thoughts, and I hear you. I’ve watched Kamla on NBA TV for a number of years now, and though I don’t find his analysis particularly compelling, I’ve always thought he was a totally competent analyst with informed opinions of the league. And I do concede that he probably didn’t specifically aim to offend, but it happened all the same. If I were to accidentally refer to one of my coworkers as a “Chinaman” during a meeting, for example, there’s no way I could explain that away as “I didn’t think you’d find that offensive.” I’d have to answer for it, and I think Kamla has to answer for this in some manner.


Posted by: Brian Spencer on November 5th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I’m white. I can’t speak to how Asian viewers felt when Kamla made his remark. But I didn’t really know “Chinaman” was a slur, and a lot of (white) friends I talked to about the incident didn’t know, either. I mean, I guess he was trying to make up a nickname for Yi, or whatever… Jake is right, the guy is kind of dumb, he says stupid stuff. But it’s not necessarily bullshit that he didn’t know “Chinaman” was a slur, because I think (judging from your post) you’d be surprised at how many white people don’t know that. Would I have called him that? No, but mainly because I’ve probably heard that term maybe twice in my entire life. Maybe Kamla heard it and thought it was okay to say, who knows, but you can’t compare it to the n-word. It’s not possible to go through life in the U.S. without having heard that word or without knowing how offensive it is. But it’s definitely possible to go through life and barely hear the “Chinaman” phrase, let alone know its racist connotations. So anyway, I don’t think Kamla deserves to be suspended or fired for what he said, because how can you know not to say something that you didn’t know was offensive?

Posted by: Goo on November 5th, 2009 at 5:35 pm

He’s a professional TV personality, who represents the NBA, and it’s his job to know better. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinaman#Controversies

Posted by: Brian Spencer on November 5th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

You say you have watched Kamla on NBATV for years yet somehow you managed to let his personality, rhetoric, and way of just plain speech pass you by. He talks that way and im sure he is sincere in not meaning to offend anyone. Sure its BS that he doesn’t know that Chinaman is slightly, and by slightly, i mean on the same level as just pretty much calling him Chinese, detrimental. So now stating someone’s ethnicity is justified by outrage and a firing. Stop being so politically correct, this crap pisses me off. No one can say anything without thinking twice and everything has to respect everyone. Kamla always uses colloquialisms, “hip language”, and words generally avoided by the media so you saying you actually watched him is just as BS as him not knowing what the word means.

I lauged when you said your readers should email the netword demanding his dismissal…

Posted by: Anton on November 5th, 2009 at 6:02 pm

You’re right Spencer, Kamla should have totally been paying attention to those 6 instances that caused controversy, 3 of which happened before 2001. Your faux outrage and insistence that everyone know even minor supposed racial slurs is hilarious.

Posted by: Mike on November 5th, 2009 at 6:06 pm

And to suggest “chinaman” is on the same level as “n*gger” is especially laughable.

Posted by: Mike on November 5th, 2009 at 6:07 pm

I also had no idea Chinaman was offensive. My freshmen year roommate was a Chinese-American. His name was Chang, but all his friends called him C.C., for Chinaman Chuck.

I had no idea it was considered derogatory. I know CC liked the nickname. You are just being dramatic and trying to drive traffic to your blog (which is actually working, so I can’t fault you there).

Posted by: John Park Williams on November 5th, 2009 at 6:09 pm

“So, let me get this straight: Kamla apologized under the guise that he didn’t know this was a racial slur and didn’t think it was offensive? Bullshit. If he’s that ignorant, he has no business being on national television and representing the NBA.”

To tell the truth, I wouldn’t have realized it was a slur either. Perhaps I’m too ignorant to be posting comments on some sports blog.

Nothing was sad to indicate any kind of malice. It’s just a mistake, one I wouldn’t have noticed myself if I were watching. If someone was offended, he can apologize and move on. But throwing the guy under the bus for what appears to be an honest mistake strikes me as an immature overreaction that won’t improve anything.

Posted by: Justin on November 5th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Brian, as someone who’s Chinese American, thanks for the entry. I have to say it’s refreshing to hear that someone who’s non-Asian realizes insults against people of Asian descent generally aren’t taken with the same gravity in the US.

As for the other comments on here, you’re just proving the point that Brian is trying to make that insults against Asian people aren’t taken seriously. It’s really all a product of the media/Hollywood over the years really not treating Asian people with any respect whenever they’ve been shown in movies, TV, etc. Maybe it’s because there haven’t been a large number of Asian people in the US so they think it’s ok to keep portraying them as weird, nerd, whatever. But with the increasing number of Asians and Asian Americans coming into the US, you need to start realizing that this kind of stuff is not gonna be tolerated anymore. I have to say half the time Asian people just let this kind of stuff slide more because they want to start stupid crap or just want to be polite.

Posted by: Bruce on November 5th, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Yi is a man right? Also, he’s from china. Chinaman!

Posted by: Caleb on November 5th, 2009 at 6:30 pm

all these americans commenting on whether or not ‘chinaman’ is offensive beautifully illustrates our deep lack of cultural understanding. half of these responses have to be fake (chinaman chuck … !?).

people act like all these terms are just about being ‘PC,’ and are just too ‘confusing’ to keep up with — which is just bullshit. it’s really not that difficult: outdated racial slurs as means of labeling or classifying individuals are probably not OK.

Posted by: wes on November 5th, 2009 at 6:31 pm

wait… for real? you guys don’t know that ‘chinaman’ is not an appropriate term for an asian american, or chinese american, or anyone at all…? that is just silly. you’d seriously say that at work, or in public? I mean, is it like, 1955? the only person i know who might think that is ok is my grandfather.

how is the term different than the N word? i don’t get that… it’s a racial slur, right? it’s not appropriate at the workplace, and certainly not on public television… where is the confusion?

it sounds instead like all these comments are actually defending the term because you don’t *want* it to be offensive, as part of america’s weird inferiority complex with asians in general. it’s kind of “ok” to use derogatory terms, or “not tell asians apart,” or whatever other racist ‘slips,’ because in some way americans feel threatened by successful non-white nations. or because we don’t feel like we’ve done ‘harm’ to this particular ethnic group, we don’t owe them respect…? the whole thing is bizarre and pathological.

using a diminutive and derogatory racial term to describe a professional athlete is racist. period. you wouldn’t do it for a white guy, or a black guy, and no, you shouldn’t do it for asian guys.

Posted by: DAN on November 5th, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Seriously, how could someone possibly not know chinaman is an insult? What kind of idiots are you people? Freakin Idiocracy.

Posted by: KSH on November 5th, 2009 at 6:48 pm

“I have to say it’s refreshing to hear that someone who’s non-Asian realizes insults against people of Asian descent generally aren’t taken with the same gravity in the US.”

An insult requires some kind of malice. Kamala didn’t seem to have the intent to offend anyone. He (like many Americans, myself included) probably just wasn’t familiar with its use as a slur. Cut him some slack until he uses it again. Christ.

Comparing it to the “N-Word” is ridiculous. Everyone in this country *knows* the history behind that word. No excuses there.

Can’t this just be called what it is: A misunderstanding?

There’s something nauseating about the commenters saying that they “can’t believe people don’t know that word is offensive”. Okay, I get it. You’re better than me, I guess. Revel in your multicultural superiority. Feel the liberal guilt slide right off ya like a comfy pair of PJs. Keep pretending you’ve never let something slip out of your mouth that someone else found offensive, completely on accident. You are all the physical embodiment of political correctness.

I don’t see the point in assuming the worst about the guy. It’s an honest mistake because he didn’t know any better.

Posted by: Justin on November 5th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

OK. So the confusion by the general public about whether “chinaman” is an OK term is disturbing, but it veers away from Brian’s original point.

His point: whether or not your average Joe can tell the difference between an offensive and non-offensive term (which the above comments illustrate), as a PROFESSIONAL ANNOUNCER on NATIONAL TV, Kamla is OBLIGATED to know these terms and to use appropriate language when speaking about individuals and professional players. As a rep of the NBA, it is his JOB to know how to speak about people without being offensive. Period.

That is the big point here.

Posted by: tony willis on November 5th, 2009 at 7:05 pm

I don’t think it was a racial slur. If someone called me Croatiaman I certainly wouldn’t mind.


Posted by: luka on November 5th, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Why does it make me an idiot that no one I know has ever used the term “Chinaman”? Like I said, I’ve heard it probably twice in my entire life… So where are you guys living that this word gets bandied about constantly, enough to have any awareness of it? I hardly knew that term existed until this Kamla thing. How can I be called an idiot for that? Actually, maybe you’re the racist, if you’re hanging out with people who use that term constantly.

Posted by: Goo on November 5th, 2009 at 7:32 pm

The chinaman is not the issue here, Dude. I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude. Across this line, you DO NOT… Also, Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.

Posted by: The Dude Abides on November 5th, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Spencer, you employed a double standard yourself, you hypocrite. You didn’t use the N-word in its entirety, instead substituting two punctuation marks for two of the letters. But the (supposedly) offensive word to refer to a Chinese person gets published in clear text.

Brian Spencer should be drawn and quartered by rodeo clowns for his insensitivity! I’m just so darned offended, I’m foaming at the mouth over here!

You’re truly a moron, Spencer.

Posted by: Shawn_solo on November 5th, 2009 at 7:57 pm

So, I’m actually Chinese and am from Hong Kong. There are 2 things I agree with;

Shaquille O’Neal should have been suspended. I hope he’s aware he doesn’t have a chinese name, and therefore couldn’t have been called out in chinese

The miami heat should have a public apology. It was insensitive, and also stupid, since fortune cookies were an invention of the states (albeit by asians).

However, Kamla should be ok. I just grabbed a few friends and asked, and we don’t really have strong feelings about the slur. I personally don’t mind it simply because there isn’t a singular noun for chinese. You can call someone german in singular form (dirk the german) but you can’t use it it the same way for chinese (yao, the chinese) hence chinaman. He could have said chinese man, and it may have been a slip, but I personally don’t find it that offensive.

That being said, I am generally younger, and older asians may disagree. Ui do agree however that slurs against asians are way less adressed. The spanish basketball team photo didn’t nearly have as much attention than it should have. If they were in blackface instead, I doubt they’d even be allowed to play

Posted by: Garron on November 5th, 2009 at 8:34 pm

I’m an Asian (though not Chinese) but I don’t think “Chinaman” is an offensive word. It may be inappropriate, since most guys coins Asians as “Chinese” (hey, China is just a country for God’s sake!) But I don’t think I’ll be accused if I say Tony Parker is Franceman.

Probably Sting shouldn’t have got away with his song “Englishman in New York”!

Posted by: - Cha on November 5th, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Ok guys let me clear this up for you. Chinaman is considered a racial slur ONLY in America! Anywhere else Chinaman refers to a man from China.
Peace, my overly sensitive western friends.

Posted by: Lee on November 5th, 2009 at 11:15 pm

get a life. connotation is everything and kamla clearly didnt mean it as a derogatory term, he apologized and now it should be over with. even imus is back on the air, don’t you have bigger fish to fry…

Posted by: Alex on November 5th, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Hasn’t everybody seen The Big Lebowski? Walter Sobchak already dealt with this exact nomenclature problem:

“Dude: Walter, the chinaman who peed on my rug, I can’t go give him a bill, so what the fuck are you talking about?
Walter Sobchak: What the fuck are you talking about? The chinaman is not the issue here, Dude. I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude. Across this line, you DO NOT… Also, Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.”

Posted by: gurf morlix on November 5th, 2009 at 11:23 pm

chinaman is a very common term. it’s used to describe a style of bowling in cricket…


Posted by: Onno on November 6th, 2009 at 12:15 am

I won’t be insulted if you call me Filipinoman. You Americans make a big deal out of everything!

Posted by: ondoy on November 6th, 2009 at 12:44 am

I’m sorry, I may not be completely in the right seeing as I’m only part chinese. Frankly, I see no offense in a white person calling someone a “chinaman.” I can easily see why some people would be, but I’m confused by your assumption that everyone should know “chinaman” is a derogatory term for chinese people. Frankly, I could understand had he called him a “chink” I’d be completely backing you. That has been and will be a hateful term against chinese people. I see the word chinaman as it is, a man from china, that’s all.
I do agree that the Shaq comment is completely uncalled for, and should’ve had negative consequences. Overall I’m more angered by Shaq’s comments against Yao Ming than I am about Kamla’s “chinaman” comment.

Posted by: VV on November 6th, 2009 at 1:45 am

I urge all of you commentors to contact the Empty the Bench Office and demand that Brian Spencer’s over-sensitive writing be appropriately and immediately dealt with.

Posted by: Mr. Sensitive on November 6th, 2009 at 2:00 am

If you honestly didn’t know it was a racial slur, you’re quite ignorant; The term even originated in this country. This is public television, and all races should be respected. Second, it is ridiculous to say that one racial slur is more serious than another.

If you can’t call African-Americans niggers on NBA TV or public broadcast, then you shouldn’t be able to call Asian-Americans Chinamen. It’s actually really simple.

I do agree that kamla shouldn’t be fired for letting this slip or whatever this is, but he should definitely take account for his actions and solemnly issue his own apology. It’s just wrong if he doesn’t.

Posted by: Saif on November 6th, 2009 at 2:55 am

I’m of Chinese descent and I also had no idea that “Chinaman” was derogatory. If I heard someone say that I would probably just think that he was having trouble coming up with a particularly creative nickname for someone. Like all of the examples above – Croatiaman, Frenchman, etc.

That said, if it’s an offensive term like people say it is, Kamla should probably be disciplined because, as you say, he’s a professional who works in the media, and should know better.

Posted by: Emma on November 6th, 2009 at 2:59 am

Uh, let’s see. Oh yes, The Flying Dutchman. Brian, you recall ever using that one? Maybe you should throw an apology stone out of your glass blog. Of just shut up.

Posted by: Jamscience on November 6th, 2009 at 5:14 am

i don’t get why everyone is so resistant to the idea that this might be an offensive term. i mean, if you didn’t know, this is an education experience, right?

let’s say kamla didn’t know. he learns, and, because in a public position, he is perfectly situated to educate a broad slice of the public about these things, and hence apologizes for it. then his viewers know too.

let’s say you as a viewer didn’t know. fine. you learn through this incident that is it considered offensive by many people.

that’s how these things get publicly known. why doesn’t anyone want to say, ‘oh wow, i didn’t know that, now i do’ ??

saying “i didn’t know that, so therefore it is not true” is faulty logic. there are lots of things you don’t know and eventually learn. and there are lots of words that change over a century. this an educational process, right?

Posted by: tony willis on November 6th, 2009 at 10:48 am

and ps “Chinaman” does have a specific derogatory history in the US, from the Old West onwards (used to refer to asians of any nationality), and in Hollywood, and especially during and after WWII and the Korean War. again, if you don’t know that, fine. but hey, this would be the time to learn.

Posted by: tony willis on November 6th, 2009 at 10:51 am

Do any of the people who believe this comment was not offensive actually have jobs?
Do you think you could get away referring to a co-worker as a Chinaman? How about a Jap? Nip? Kraut? Commi? Cracker? Yid?
Here is the basic idea many of you seem unable to grasp: JUST BECAUSE A WORD IS NOT OFFENSIVE TO YOU PERSONALLY DOES NOT MAKE IT OKAY TO USE IN PUBLIC! Have any of you ever heard a joke that made you uncomfortable, but everyone else laughed?
I remember I had two camp counselors, one black and one white. A small child (6 years old) asked the black counselor why his palms and the bottom of his feet were so lightly colored, while he himself was very dark skinned. The white counselor made the joke “Its probably from shaking hands with so many white people cause ____ is such an Oreo”. The black counselor laughed along with other white counselors. Is this offensive?
Kamla was at his place of business. Unfortunately for us, that place is a mouthpiece for a basketball that is watched world wide. Over the past 10 years, the biggest emerging market for this league is China. For the sake of commerce, it is important to recognize and respect the great people of China and not belittle them with such comments.
Also, the idiots on here who think “Englishman” is the same as “Chinaman” should really pack it in. When, in the history of time, was Englishman considered an insult by anyone not oppressed by their Empire?
Your lack of cultural understanding and insensitivity to others makes me ashamed to be born in the USA.

Posted by: Mike S on November 6th, 2009 at 11:13 am

He did not really apologize. No statement from him and nothing on his Twitter account either. The guy is either racist or ignorant or both. No excuses here. I am a chinese man living in California and I am deeply offended and so are all of my Asian American friends and we are not excusing him. For those who say it is not as bad as saying “nigger” how would you know if you are not Asian? The slur “chinaman” is really offensive to us Asians and an insult to us. But I guess I am too sensitive right and should go back to China? SUre.

Posted by: Derek on November 6th, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Not that this justifies the action or anything, but I would like to also point out that as far as the hypothetical situation that begins this article, that essentially has happened, it DID make national headlines, and the sportscaster WAS NOT fired.


Sure, Tilghman didn’t actually use the N-word, but I’d say she actually took it one step further.

Obviously I DO NOT condone the actions of Kamla, Tilghman, or anyone who would use the excuse of “I didn’t realize it would be that offensive when I said it.” That said, I’m just trying to point out how pathetic this country is when it comes to sensitivity to issues of race/ethnicity.

Posted by: JZwoopwoop on November 6th, 2009 at 2:19 pm

“”"”"”"”"”"”Here is the basic idea many of you seem unable to grasp: JUST BECAUSE A WORD IS NOT OFFENSIVE TO YOU PERSONALLY DOES NOT MAKE IT OKAY TO USE IN PUBLIC!”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"”"

this man speaks the truth. i think 3/4 of the people have replied here are as dumb as Kamla. It’s funny how people can say, “i didn’t know it was offensive” when they’re not the targeted minority of that statement. If you didn’t know it was a racial slur, then don’t effing say it. simple as that.

regardless of Kamla unintentional slur, it doesn’t mean that it will be unintentional for the rest of us.

Posted by: v on November 6th, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I dont think “chinaman” is all that bad. seriously, he didnt say chink, slanteye, fish head, zipper head, gook, god farmer, rice bowl or any other seriously derogatory terms. Saying chinaman is like calling someone “colored”, its a term that was politically correct in the 60s and probably how a lot of midwestern kids were brought up referring to our esteemed asian friends. Rick probably needs a gentle reminder that times have changed and more asian people live in this country and that the term, while im sure he didnt mean for it to be offensive, can and probably will upset someone.

Let’s be real though, some black people dont mind being called “nigger” by their close friends its even a linking verb in most rap songs, and some gay people call their friends “fag” as a term of endearment. Sometimes we deal with negatives by turning them into positives, or changing their meanings to be innocuous or a term of endearment. Like when you call your best friend a mother fucker for beating you at Madden on the playstation. We need to step back and look at things in context and not be so quick to judge or to lop off someones head for a minor, if inconvenient, offense.

Posted by: crazy! on November 6th, 2009 at 2:55 pm

There are degrees, surely.

Other terms would’ve been far more inflammatory, right? For Kamla to have cobbled up some sort of lame play on (and please forgive my using these even in quotes) “Coolie” or “Chink” as a nickname-y use would absolutely outrage virtually any listener. Those absolutely are on a par with “the N word.” Their use on air would result in the speaker’s being summarily fired. (The 2-second delay would prevent our even hearing it, right?)

There’s ground between those sorts of things and Kamla’s remark. Even Shaq’s little self-puffery about Yao is significantly stupider than what Kamla did, in my book at least. (Mickey Rooney’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is actually worse than Shaq, for that matter, and people don’t exactly ban that movie the way they disdain “Holiday Inn” for its blackface number. You do have a point about people not taking it seriously.)

I can easily accept that a fairly yutz-ish announcer guy would, in the flow of talking about some player with a particular ethnic background, stumble across the combined usage we’re talking about without having the alarm go off in his head. Maybe he ought to know better being a pro…. But on the other hand there’s a question of degree in the response, too. A public apology, a suspension, some sort of public service….

Putting the hammer down on this one seems disproportionate, as does the “n-word” comparison.

Posted by: Quiet on November 6th, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I love it how when someone comes out and takes a stand on race issues in America, they get a billion comments, but when we want to talk about it face to face, nobody shows up.

Posted by: Ben on November 6th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

I love the massive amount of responses by whitebread surburbanites that have never left their little bubble and ventured into real life. Go lick my taint, you bunch of fucking pale-assed pussies.

Posted by: OG on November 6th, 2009 at 7:08 pm

A lot of my fellow white Americans are fucking stupid. Here’s the deal: We, the majority don’t get to a binding vote on whther whether a word is offensive or not. The minority gets the binding vote.
You stupid retards make me ashamed to be white.
Bunch of worthless high schoolers.

Posted by: Jack on November 6th, 2009 at 7:10 pm

U can tell Rick Kamla how u feel bout sending him a message at his Twitter and bash him directly

Posted by: Earl on November 6th, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Here’s the thing with these fucking comments. If you are not Asian American, then you cannot possibly tell me what I should or should not find offensive. Stop trying to define my experience. You need to STFU and get schooled. “Chinaman,” while not as powerful a slur as “Nigger,” (yes I agree with another poster who said there are degrees of offensiveness) is still nonetheless a racial slur. Was Kamla using it like a slur? No. Should he get fired? No. But he should fucking know better than to use it, grow a pair of balls, and apologize himself by saying “I’m sorry I offended anyone with my thoughtless use of a racial slur.” And not a bullshit apology that turns it around on the offended like “I’m sorry YOU WERE OFFENDED by what I said.” Just because the intent to offend was not there, does not make “Chinaman” less than a racial slur. If I heard someone saying it, even innocuously like Kamla, I would still request that person refrain from using it in front of me. There are too many bad, sometimes violent memories, attached to that word just like there are a plethora of negative experiences attached to “Nigger.”

Posted by: Anonymous on November 6th, 2009 at 8:34 pm

I’m An Asian guy and I didn’t find this offensive because he obviously didn’t mean it as an insult. It was a simple mistake that, as we’ve seen from other comments, a lot of people could probably make. That said, I think he should definitely effing man up to the situation and issue a real apology. I’m especially sick of the whole for offending anyone or anyone who was offended or if anyone was offended type of apologies. I want him to say he was sorry for saying it, period.

Also, Chinaman really isn’t on par with chink or the n-word. It’s more of an annoyance for me, but I could see it offending others. And again, I really think we should look at intent here. If he says it again, that’s a different story, but for now, I feel like a sincere apology would suffice.

What I’d really like to know is how the other examples cited got off. Racists pricks.

Posted by: Andrew on November 6th, 2009 at 9:52 pm

All the defenses and excuses here justifying or downplaying the use of the “C” word are just further proof as to how people don’t know (nor do they take seriously) racist terms and actions in regards to people of Asian descent.

Justin wrote: “Comparing it to the “N-Word” is ridiculous. Everyone in this country *knows* the history behind that word. No excuses there.”

Well, the fact that so few people seem to know about racist terms about Asian people is part of the problem.

Remember, there recently was a movie (The Goods) which tried to make a hate crime against an Asian guy funny, and even used the “J” word in the trailer, as well as the movie. And the filmmakers and studio thought nothing of it. Imagine if they had used the “N” word. Now, they must have known that the J word was racist, no? And that the J word is just as bad as the N word, no?

Too many people of Asian descent simply dismiss such terms against Asians, not realizing the intent behind it, and the painful, racist history behind them. These are not new terms, nor are they innocent.

It took a long time for America to realize how bad those anti-Black terms were, and now it’s time for America to realize how bad anti-Asian ones are.

We live in a country in which no less than 5 Hollywood movies are being made in which white actors have been chosen to play undoubtedly Asian characters, and yet these studios think there’s nothing wrong.

This all points to a bigger problem.

Posted by: mykalroze on November 6th, 2009 at 10:42 pm

a quick primer: “chinaman” calls to mind the caricature of the laundry-washing, restaurant-serving, house-cleaning, subservient, emasculated, buck-toothed, disposable railroad-worker chinese immigrant. “me go washee clothes now, yes mastuh, chop suey egg foo young velly dericious.”

yes, the term itself is a combination of two innocuous words to form what may seem a completely accurate and harmless description of an individual. but it’s the context in which the word has been historically used in america which fuels so much anger.

i can understand some of the comments from non-americans here wondering why the term is so offensive. perhaps that term has not had the same usage or history as it has in this country. but it’s a word that has been used in america, to belittle and insult.

and yes, it’s a word that a sportscaster should take out of his vocabulary.

Posted by: Jay on November 6th, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Really? Wow, really you guys? Despite the usage of the word “Chinaman” by racist Whites in America since the freaking NINETEENTH CENTURY, you’ve never heard of it or never thought it was derogatory? That it was okay to call your token Asian friend “Chinaman”?

Here’s the thing you White suburban idiots who have never bothered to venture outside of your ignorant communities: Just because YOU don’t think it’s offensive doesn’t mean OTHER PEOPLE don’t think it’s offensive.

Jesus christ, and to think so many people this stupid are still alive in the 21st centuries. It’s not the 1960′s anymore people.

Posted by: Peyton on November 7th, 2009 at 2:49 am

I’ve read people here compare franceman or croatiaman to the word, “chinaman”, which is an ACTUAL word with decades and decades of HATE baggae. This argument is simply STUPID. I’m tired of hearing it whenever people debate over some idiot using “chinaman.” Just don’t use it. For those who didn’t know it was offensive, well now you know, so stop thinking it’s okay and spread the word. What’s so hard about that.

The US will not be considered white in a few decades or so…I say we all just start respecting each other even if we don’t understand how something we do is hurtful. Let’s make that our country’s credo.

Posted by: Steve on November 7th, 2009 at 5:11 am

What Mike S says is completely right. You guys don’t realize how dumb you sound comparing “Chinaman” to something like “Filipinoman.” Clearly you don’t realize that the word “Chinaman” WAS used as a derogatory remark. It’s not as simple as, “Oh he’s from China and he’s a man therefore he’s a Chinaman, I don’t see how that’s offensive.”

Posted by: Ryan K. on November 7th, 2009 at 6:13 am

Though I am a Chinese American, I see the use of the term “Chinaman” the same as if he used the word “Negro”. Such as, “That makes this the 4th win for the negro.” You just don’t hear people saying that anymore and they shouldn’t, same goes for Chinaman. It’s not a racial slur at all like Chink, gook or nigger. But it is just an ignorant word used back when white people didn’t know any better. This country has been here for a long time and through a lot and I think we should be beyond branding people based on their color. Instead lets consider him as the athlete he should be because that’s what really counts. Not the color of his skin, which clearly is what Rick Kamala intended with his use of words.

Posted by: Kevin on November 7th, 2009 at 8:07 am

Why the double standard – no excuses. This guy is supppose to be a pro not a child. What if it was the Niggxx word? No excuses.

Posted by: Joe Wong on November 7th, 2009 at 11:22 am

I cannot believe the ignorance in the comments on here. Especially by all the white people on here saying “I had no idea Chinaman is a racial slur.” Did you guys not see The Big Lebowski?

You all sound like Randal from Clerks 2 when he did not realize that the term “porch monkey” was a racial slur:


Idiots. Seriously, no wonder why Americans are seen as uncultured and closeted. -,-;

Posted by: Jordan White on November 7th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

I think a lot of modern white people may not know that the term “Chinaman” or “Chinamen” is sort of an old fashioned put down for Chinese (i.e. stay in your place Chinaman- don’t be a threat to me, the white man, your superior). If you have a white person who lives in an area with no Asians, they may have no clue. On the other hand, I think someone who is a professional announcer on TV OUGHT to know better. I also think a lot of white people seem like it is ok to offend people of color as long as they did it by accident. It’s not.

Posted by: MA on November 8th, 2009 at 12:28 am

A few years back, Steve Kerr called Yao Ming a Chinaman on a TNT broadcast and later apologized. As this article points out, Rick Kamala is in a public position as a visible representative of the NBA and should have known better, especially with what happened with Steve Kerr.

Posted by: Carlos G. on November 8th, 2009 at 5:02 am

I think that the point people are trying to make when they say this term isn’t offensive is that they were in no way aware of its offensive connotation, because the compound word itself has a very obvious and innocuous meaning. Dutchman, Englishman and Frenchman are all fine. So there is absolutely no way that someone uneducated in racial slurs would realize that perhaps adding this suffix to his country of origin would be seen as offensive. I didn’t know it was, and i’m definitely better off now for being informed.

Clearly, it isn’t ok to refer to people in a derogatory way, but don’t get upset about ignorance, because it really isn’t my fault that I didn’t know this was a slur. I have a lot of chinese and other asian-american friends, and none of us realized this was an issue. So thank you for enlightening us, but please, do calm down.

Posted by: Josh on November 8th, 2009 at 6:10 am

Chinaman is not the same as Englishman and Frenchmen. Even if it were, it should be Chineseman or Englandman and Franceman, for it to add up. As stated earlier, Chinaman was used as a derogatory word.

Posted by: Ryan K. on November 8th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

So answer this question for me Brian Spencer: Why is it acceptable to write out a derogatory name for one race but not another? You spell ni**er while writing out Chinaman? How is that right? Stop being such a hypocrite. It was an honest mistake and no matter how many times you complain about it, you have no idea what went through his mind. And why do you deserve to be writing a blog after your slip that I mentioned but Kamla shouldn’t get a chance for saying something he wasn’t aware of. He immediately apologized for it and I, for one, believe him. Get over yourself, buddy. Write something worth reading instead of just trying to draw traffic.

Posted by: Mike on November 8th, 2009 at 8:09 pm

And leave it pussy bitch Mike to try and change the subject. And Josh, the girls you masturbate to don’t count as friends. Fag.

Posted by: OG on November 8th, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Unbelievable, OG. So let me get this straight: it’s not okay to use a mild term like “Chinaman”, which you’d have to be looking for an excuse to be offended to have a problem with… but it’s totally okay to use a homophobic slur that’s 1000 times more well-known and more offensive than “Chinaman”? It’s not okay to accidentally offend Asians, but you can offend gays to your heart’s content? What the f**k, you little hypocritical piece of s**t? You just discredited any thought that we should shed tears because Kamla said “Chinaman”, if you’re going to turn around and talk s**t about homosexuals. You’re way more bigoted than Kamla ever thought about being, all of you a**holes are if you think that one is okay and the other isn’t. F**k you guys.

Posted by: Steve on November 9th, 2009 at 8:19 am

Chinaman is a racial slur, especially in the U.S. Just because some of you are not aware of it, doesn’t make it a “mild” word. To most Asian Americans it is equivalent to “nigger”, but not to “honky”.

It is equivalent to “nigger” because laws were passed excluding the Chinese from immigrating to the U.S., interned at Angel Island, and even killed during the time of the gold rush.

A lot of white folks don’t find words like “honky” or “peckerwood” too offensive because there is no history of discrimination or violence behind them. So to the people who think “chinaman” is a mild word, you have to look at the history.

Posted by: Mark on November 9th, 2009 at 7:24 pm

It’s a bit like LeBron James saying a particular shoe that Mike Miller wears is “…a good shoe for an unathletic white guy”. The double standard is alive and well in the USA

Posted by: greg J on November 11th, 2009 at 3:00 am

What’s unfortunate is that this “racial standard” is not the same for things said about whites…. I could care less if whites don’t have the same history of racism against them as other cultures. What a crock of shit!!! For anyone who believes this, you truly are fucking stupid. It’s called a double standard. Race relations in America will never improve until it is taken seriously from all points of view. Not just blacks and Asians and hispancis but for whites as well.

Posted by: Jon on April 15th, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Just about every comment in this forum is moronic. I wish I could talk face to face with some of you idiots. Because after I was done belittling you in person and making you all feel inferior because I’m so much more intelligent than all of you, I would love to kick the shit out of all you morons. Please if any of you live in or Denver Colorado, can we meet in person? Please?

Posted by: Jon on April 15th, 2010 at 7:49 pm

ha. i didn’t even know c-man was an offensive term. i guess now i know. what about calling dirk the big german? could we say the big mexican? or the big egyptian? found this site searching for rick kamla stuff cause i can’t stand him. also that jon guy at the end. oh lord.

Posted by: darren on June 8th, 2011 at 7:05 pm

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