NBA and WNBA players talked about the first time they were ever called the n-word.
It was something they did for a Bleacher Report series called “Are You Listening?” and the clip includes Mike Conley Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies, Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, the Portland Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum, the Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, and the WNBA’s A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces.
In the clip that’s a little over four minutes long, each player doesn’t seem to have a problem remembering the first time they were called the n-word, and for some it happened at school as young people, while others experienced it on the basketball court, which was the case with Brown.
“I remember I was in an elite 8 game, the ball gets tipped out of my hands and it goes out of bounds,” he explained. “The kid tried to sell the call like it was going to be their ball, even though he knew he hit it out of bounds. He was like ‘I’m locking that n—a up’ … He said ‘You heard me’ and said it again and looked at me dead in the eyes.”
Beal talked about being called the n-word in middle school, and he said a white kid pushed him, used the slur, so he “stuck him right in the jaw.”
As far as Wilson, the WNBA star couldn’t recall the first time the n-word was hurled at her but remembered being told by one of her white childhood classmates that she’d have to sleep outside if she ever visited.
“That’s when it kind of clicked with me,” said Wilson. “People just might not like you because the color of your skin.”
McCollum talked about an experience he witnessed when an entire crowd yelled racist remarks to someone. It was during a basketball game when he was younger, and after a Black person dunked the ball the crowd chanted “Who’s the monkey?”
Towards the end of the “Are You Listening?”clip, players were asked how a more inclusive environment could be created.
“I just think the dialogue is important,” said McCollum. “A lot of times people are afraid to have those discussions, those awkward conversations, so being able to talk about things and discuss things, I think that gives everybody a better perspective.”
You can watch the video below.