Mark Cuban is complicated

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Cuban is talking about bigotry. He's right, but ... it's complicated.

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Mark Cuban spoke at a conference for entrepreneurs in Nashville on Wednesday. Playing up his TV persona as brash, opinionated and unafraid of looking like the heel, he said some frank things about Donald Sterling, race and bigotry. From The Tennessean:

I know I'm prejudiced and I know I'm bigoted in a lot of different ways. If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I'll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos, I'll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.

That's frank and, I trust, honest. Cuban's immediate reaction to the Sterling situation was confusing and oddly quiet for such a loud man. He initially refused comment so long as the Mavericks were in the playoffs; then eventually relented to suggest that, as he said again on Wednesday, "you can't legislate stupidity." But when Adam Silver handed down his penalty, Cuban was among the chorus of owners applauding it. (Cuban has not yet indicated whether he will vote in favor of stripping Sterling of his team.)

Cuban's honesty about the pervasiveness of bigotry is refreshing. But I have trouble buying Cuban's equal opportunity bigotry claim -- that he'd cross the street for a tatted up white dude. It's a little too breezy ... especially given Cuban's history.

Cuban stalked across the court, blew off steam at the scorer's table, then headed down a hall leading away from the court. [Kenyon] Martin's mother, Lydia Moore, was wearing a Nuggets jersey and was standing near the base of the section he walked past, clearly in his view.

According to Cuban, a fan called the Nuggets "thugs," and he looked at Moore and said, "That includes your son."

However, Martin's agent told The Denver Post that Cuban said, "Your son is a punk."

Cuban did this after a Mavericks' playoff loss to Denver. He later apologized to K-Mart's mother. In the heat of frustration, he didn't approach (white) Nuggets coach George Karl to complain about the Nuggets' roughness. He went at Martin, a tatted up black player. And he either called him a punk or agreed with a fan who called him a thug. To Martin's mom's face. And we all know what people really mean when they call someone a "thug" or a "punk," or at least what the connotation is perceived to be by targets of the language.

Again, Cuban apologized, and this happened five years ago. But forgive me for being skeptical about Cuban's claim that he's an equal opportunity bigot. Forgive me if I see Cuban's position -- that everyone is bigoted, and that you can't legislate stupidity -- as a coded defense of white privilege to be racist. I'm not saying that Cuban is racist -- not at all. But when you argue that there should not be meaningful consequences for blatant racism, you are in essence defending white privilege. That's problematic.

I'm glad Cuban, unlike most NBA owners, will talk about these issues. I wish he would spend some additional time thinking about them.

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