NBA players were outraged Wednesday by anti-Haitian statements issued by former league player Paul Shirley.
“I haven’t donated a cent to the Haitian relief effort. And I probably will not,” said Shirley, who was a seldom-used reserve forward in 2004-05 on Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns team. “I don’t think the people of Haiti will do much with my money either.
“… Shouldn’t much of the responsibility for the disaster lie with the victims of that disaster?”
Instead of sympathy, Shirley would like Haitians to read the following letter from him posted on http://www.flipcollective.com:
Dear Haitians –
First of all, kudos on developing the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Your commitment to human rights, infrastructure, and birth control should be applauded.
As we prepare to assist you in this difficult time, a polite request: If it’s possible, could you not re-build your island home in the image of its predecessor? Could you not resort to the creation of flimsy shanty- and shack-towns? And could some of you maybe use a condom once in a while?
The Rest of the World
ESPN Wednesday fired Shirley from his gig as a freelance commentator. The network released a brief statement saying that Shirley’s views “do not at all reflect our company’s views on the Haiti relief efforts. He will no longer contribute to ESPN.”
Shirley’s heartless statement stunned Chris Duhon.
“That just speaks about who he is as a person,” said the Knicks’ point guard. “We’ve come so far in this world in terms of racism and stereotypes and things like that. And for a guy who has played in the league, to say something like that, that reflects badly on us, as well.
“We’re going to let people know that we’re not like that,” Duhon added. “The NBA is not like that. We do a lot in the communities, especially with our NBA Cares program. This is not just for a public image. It’s because guys really want to do it. It’s a shame that one guy can kind of tarnish that for you.”
Shirley, 32, played at Iowa State and spent one NBA season each with Chicago, Atlanta and Phoenix before heading to Europe. The last NBA team the 6-10 forward tried to catch on with was Minnesota.
D’Antoni seemed surprised by his statements.
“I can’t comment because I have no idea the context he said it in,” he said. “I just know for us, when we were in Phoenix, Paul was a good guy and an extremely bright person. I remember that he wrote a book and a screenplay and he did some blogs. So I don’t know what happened.”
Shirley’s anti-Haitian stance is in opposition to that of many of his former peers. Almost 50 NBA players have pledged to donate a minimum total of $500,000 to the Clinton Bush Haiti fund. Ten players donated $1,000 per point in games played last Friday, including the Lakers’ Pau Gasol, who contributed $20,000 via his 20-point game against the Knicks at the Garden.
The fund-raising effort was announced at halftime, with former president Clinton delivering an emotional talk during a live interview. He detailed what he saw in Haiti during his recent visit to the earthquake-ravaged country.
Among those who chose to donate was the Knicks’ Danilo Gallinari.
“I think it’s so important for the NBA and for me to do this,” Gallinari said. “I live a different life from all the people there. They cannot live the life I’m living. I’m lucky. So I felt I had to help them and that’s what I did. I hope that help can really help those people.”