Some topics are always out of bounds
On Saturday, New York Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter caused a stir when she tweeted about the tragedy in Japan, "What if God was tired of the way they treated their own people in there own country! Idk guys he makes no mistakes."
She later wrote "u just never knw! They did pearl harbor so u can't expect anything less."
Monday morning, the 28-year-old apologized for her comments, tweeting, in part, "I wanna apologize to anyone I may hurt or offended during this tragic time. I didn't realize that my words could be interpreted in the manner which they were."
Pondexter is just the latest in a long line of athletes or sportswriters who have stuck their feet in their mouths when discussing a sensitive issue. While Pondexter's comments reveal a truly callous point of view, other comments from sports figures, often comparing sporting events to great tragedy, reflect a lack of perspective.
From Antrel Rolle and LeBron James describing professional sports as war, to a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Tribune comparing the patriotism of the home crowd at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games to that of the Nazis in 1936 Berlin, there are countless examples of sports figures trivializing tragedy in the name of a terrible analogy. I'm all for freedom of speech, but sometimes self-censorship is equally as important, particularly for those in the public eye. As in the case of Pondexter, if an athlete's views on an issue are likely to offend, he or she takes a risk by choosing to share those views in a public forum.
Look, I know it's tough to make it through life without offending ANYONE, but what isn't tough is to learn from the mistakes of others. If a handful of people have already been lambasted for their insensitive comments on a topic, it's just plain common sense to avoid it. So for all the athletes, coaches, sportswriters and anchors out there who aren't smart enough to know better or perceptive enough to learn from past incidents, here's a short list of topics that should never, under any circumstances, be used to describe a sporting event, its players, or its outcome.
1. Nazis, the Holocaust, Hitler. There isn't a coach in the world oppressive or dictatorial enough to warrant comparison to the most despicable human in history, not a loss heartbreaking enough to be compared to the horrors of the Holocaust and not a group of fans, teammates or otherwise evil enough to be likened to the Nazis.
2. 9/11. Nothing in professional sports -- no title game lost on a last-second buzzer, no Super Bowl defeat by way of an improbable Hail Mary pass and, certainly, no stumble of a few regular season losses in a row -- could ever cause as much pain and suffering as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
3. Slavery. The shameful history of slavery in the United States -- or any other country -- should not be trivialized by comparing team owners and players who make millions of dollars to slave owners and slaves.
4. Natural disasters. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods or any other natural disasters should not be used to describe the way one team will defeat the other, nor should they be invoked for the purposes of trash talk.
5. War. Just because coaches and athletes have compared sports to war for years doesn't mean the analogy is one that should be perpetuated. As the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Joseph Schwerdt details, in an open letter to LeBron James, the two couldn't be more different.
There are a dozen or more topics that deserve mention here, but this is a blog, not a term paper. No doubt someone else will cross the line again soon, giving rise to a flurry of new articles detailing the dangers of "foot in mouth" disease. Maybe as Twitter continues to prove problematic for those without a filter, and as cell phone cameras turn more and more of us into paparazzi, people in the spotlight will learn to think before they speak or type ... though I wouldn't hold your breath.