A few hours after the Connecticut Sun beat the Las Vegas Aces on Sunday, Aces center Liz Cambage published a series of Instagram Story posts about the conduct of “the coach of Connecticut” in that night’s game. “If there’s one thing about me, it is that that I will never let a man disrespect me. Ever, ever, ever! Especially a little white one,” Cambage said.
Cambage described the instance of disrespect: During the game, Sun head coach Curt Miller—“I’m sorry, little sir man, I do not know your name,” Cambage admitted—had appealed to the referee for a foul call against the Aces center. Cambage said that while doing so, Miller said something to the effect of, “Come on, she’s 300 pounds.” Cambage clarified that she is 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds. “I’m very proud of being a big bitch. Big body, big Benz, baby,” she said. “So don’t ever try to disrespect me or another woman in the league.”
Miller apologized in a statement the next day: “During last night’s game, while arguing a call with an official, I made an inappropriate and offensive comment in reference to Liz Cambage’s height and weight. I regret what I said in the heat of the moment and want to sincerely apologize to Liz and the entire Aces organization. I understand the gravity of my words and have learned from this.” That afternoon, the WNBA announced it was fining Miller $10,000 for the comment and issuing him a one-game suspension, which he will serve tonight when the Sun play the Storm in Seattle.
Cambage is known (and in the case of Aces fans, loved) for her on-court trash talk. But her concern in this case was the issue of power at play. “I think there’s a big difference between players and players talking shit on the court,” she said. “But for a coach for another team to be yelling protected abuse—because we can’t do nothing back.” Though the WNBA’s player workforce is majority black women, they are coached mostly by men. Including Atlanta Dream interim coach Mike Petersen, eight of 12 WNBA head coaches are men; six of the eight are white.
Would you be terribly surprised to learn that a 65-year-old sports columnist in Connecticut had no interest in parsing the fascinating, eminently parsable gender and racial dynamics here? Jeff Jacobs of the Connecticut Post used the story as a chance to take offense at some slights he himself imagined, as great columnists do. “As a white, heterosexual, 65-year-old man, I realize some feel I am qualified to speak only about Social Security, baseball and prune juice,” Jacobs wrote toward the beginning of his column on Monday. “Education and life experience don’t matter. Good intentions don’t matter. Twenty-six years of covering women’s basketball matter not a whit. In some people’s eyes, perhaps even Liz Cambage’s eyes, my analysis should be confined to golf carts and enlarged prostates.” And we’re off!
Jacobs soon stumbled into his argument, which, naturally, was that Cambage should apologize to Miller. “What Liz Cambage said in return to Curt Miller was racist and she needs to apologize or be disciplined by the WNBA,” Jacobs wrote. “If she doesn’t care what a white man thinks, perhaps she’ll listen to some needed words from a white woman, league Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.” He added that Cambage’s words were “way out of line” given, ah, “the volatile nature of the world.”
There’s plenty more: Jacobs insists that Miller, who is openly gay, is a good man and “an inspiration in the LGBT community.” He warns that Cambage will lose allies. He conducts a close-read of Cambage’s stare into the camera and concludes that it qualifies as “intimidation” or “a veiled threat.” But those tangents all seem a tad sensible when you see the bizarre kicker:
When LeBron James tweeted “You’re Next #Accountability” with an hourglass emoji at Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon, it made me sick to my stomach. Ma’Khia Bryant’s death was tragic. She also was lunging at another Black girl with a knife when Reardon shot her. People began tweeting and saying all sorts of crazy stuff about him. If I were that other girl’s dad, I’d call him a hero. LeBron took down the tweet and admitted he fueled the wrong conversation.
Although this is certainly not a tragic situation — not even close — Liz Cambage must be careful not to fuel the wrong conversation.
Stick to prostates!