Vanessa Serna, Daily Mail, November 27, 2022
Former NBA star Lamar Odom said the Phoenix Suns’ gorilla mascot is racist following the team’s owner’s one-year suspension for using racial and sexual slurs.
Odom, 43, appeared on the podcast hosted by a Suns’ fan Bootleg Kev on November 23 to discuss the contentious Arizona mascot that has been appearing on the court since 1980.
The basketball team has been under scrutiny after it was found that owner Robert Sarver had used the N-word on at least five occasions among other transgressions from his nearly two-decade tenure. Sarver has since been suspended for one year and fined $10 million.
Odom, who described himself as a ‘woke, young Black Man in America,’ admitted that he wasn’t pleased with the Suns’ gorilla mascot and said that team officials had plenty of options to choose from.
‘Do you think there is some racial connotation with the Suns’ gorilla?’ Bootleg Kev asked Odom.
To which Odom replied: ‘The thing that’s funny is they kind of slid that one by for all these years. Nobody says anything about that. Gorillas, in the desert, you can’t find any. You could probably find a cactus.
‘In basketball, bro, just like, come on, bro. But you know what’s so, really crazy about it? They just tried it because they wanted to get the fans involved, and that’s the reason why they kept it, ’cause the fans loved it.’
The basketball star, who ended his career with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013, further noted that Arizona didn’t recognize Martin Luther King Day until 1992.
While the Arizona Suns’ gorilla was once a beloved mascot, it was recently ranked one of the worst in the NBA.
The contentious gorilla was ranked number 25 out of 27 mascots in the industry in a survey conducted by PlayAZ.com in 2021. Following the Suns’ ranking was the Coyote from the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks’ Mavs Man.
Bootleg Kev and Odom stated their differences with the contentious gorilla as the podcast host argued that the mascot was popular among fans and has won mascot of the year several times.
‘You know what it is man, the Suns’ gorilla is so popular in Phoenix,’ Bootleg Kev said.
‘I bet it is,’ Odom said.
The podcast host then argued that the gorilla was tame and did his job as a mascot, to which Odom didn’t agree.
‘Naw, [the way he was] jumping off the roof and all that,’ the former NBA star said. ‘You know, at 42 I’m just looking at things totally different.’
Odom added: ‘It was crazy because when I was playing that’s something that just went over my head, the gorilla.
Meanwhile, Suns owner Sarver was suspended in September following an investigation by the NBA to look into allegations against him regarding racial slurs.
At the time, the NBA revealed Sarver used the N-word on at least five occasions among other transgressions.
‘As stated in the report, the independent investigation found that Mr. Sarver engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and League rules and policies,’ the NBA wrote in a statement.
‘This conduct included the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees; sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constituted bullying.’
According to the league, Sarver is not permitted at any NBA or WNBA team facility, including offices, arenas, and practice facilities, as well as any other league-related events, both public and private. He is also banned from having any involvement with Suns or basketball operations.
While Sarver offered an apology and accepted the the NBA’s consequences, he didn’t agree with some areas of the NBA’s report.
‘I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees,’ Sarver previously said in a statement. ‘I take full responsibility for what I have done. I am sorry for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values.’
Following the suspension and $10 million fine, it was announced that the Suns expected to sell for an estimated $3billion.
Sarver announced his decision to sell the team in September Mercury after several sponsors, including Verizon Wireless and PayPal, were intending to cut sponsorship deals. He initially bought the team in 2004 for $400million.
PayPal is the leading profit-making sponsor, as the online payment company made $3million in revenue for Phoenix last season, but its CEO Dan Schulman released a statement saying the company would not seek to renew its partnership with the Suns ‘should Robert Sarver remain involved with the Suns organization, after serving his suspension.’