Silence, Innocence, and Whiteness:
The Undemonization of Kevin Love
by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan
The Minnesota Timberwolves battled the Houston Rockets this past Saturday. Normally not on my radar, an incident involving Kevin Love and Luis Scola compelled inquiry even as the media remained silent. Purportedly frustrated over a non-call, Love not only fouled Scola, but as the Houston power forward lied on the ground Love proceeded to step on his face as he ran back to the offensive end of the court. “I fell down. He was kind of right there,” Love explained. “I got Size-19 feet. He just happened to be there. I had nowhere to go. I got tripped up. I had nowhere to step. It is just heat of the moment-type play.” The non-explanation aside, Love simultaneously identifies the incident as an accident and justifiable.
If an accident, why does he feel necessary to describe it as an unfortunate situation or to reference what happen between the two of them in game on Monday? “Love also referenced an unfortunate incident in Houston on Monday, when Scola attempted to throw a ball to deflect it off of Love out of bounds but the ball hit Love square in the groin.” Offering an explanation that seemingly justified his accidental behavior, Love was not alone in the exoneration process.
What followed the game, and the several days since there, has been silence – crickets in fact. Despite the fact that one of the league’s emerging stars stepped on an opponent’s face, the media has found little reason to write about the event. References to the event notwithstanding and a series of articles that have asked viewers to weigh in whether it was intentional or not, the overall media discourse has rendered Love’s stomping on an opponent’s face insignificant by its relative silence.
Even after the NBA announced a 2-game suspension for Love, the sports punditocracy has been muted in its criticism of Love, choosing rather to focus on his apology. Several headlines noted that in wake of the suspension, he has apologized yet again, having already apologized to Luis Scola following the game. In headline after headline, Love is constructed as apologetic, even though there is no specific apology provided by any of the news outlets (example #1, example #2). Instead they reference his statement issued on the team’s website:
“We got to talking about it, and as long as Luis and the Rockets are OK, then I’m OK with it,” Love said. “I feel like it was a learning experience, and it won’t happen again. There were no ill-intentions. I was trying to get him on a foul on the way up. I wasn’t trying to stomp him or anything like that. Just moving forward, and hopefully we win these next few games.
His post practice comments are further illustrative of a lack of contrition and a desire to give explanation rather than apology:
I don’t want to be known for that. I want to be known as a stand-up guy who happened to make a mistake with a size 19 shoe and just move on. So everybody knows there were no ill intentions there. It’s been a chippy year. It’s not only us. It’s not only the Pacers, the Rockets or anything like that. It’s a lot of games. The guys are tired. Games are being drawn out and guys are worn down.
Denying any “ill-intentions,” while describing it as a learning experience, doesn’t constitute an apology. The lack of criticism, the efforts to explain Love’s actions as resulting from his emotions, out-of-the-ordinary behavior, and otherwise not indicative of Love’s character reflect an overall effort to downplay the importance of his stomping on an opponent’s face.
Compare this response to the recent media criticism directed at Andrew Bynum. Following Game 4 of the 2011 NBA playoffs, which saw Bynum knock JJ Berea to the floor with a very hard foul, he was lambasted in the media. Called a thug, as player who was ejected for “dirty hits,” and as a player who exhibited, “stupidity, cowardice and unprofessionalism”;
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