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Friday, October 24, 2014

NBA prospect Wayne Washington calls out Bill Simmons for comments about dreads

Wayne-Washington-Jr-NikeKevin Durant and James Harden have teamed up with Nike to host a pickup basketball game this Friday. The promotion is called “Summer is Serious,” and it has involved thousands of players from across the country submitting their videos to Nike on social media sites in hopes of becoming one of the eight people selected to each team. One of those players is Wayne Washington Jr. from Woodbridge, Va.

Grantland’s Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose have also been involved in the selection process, and they discussed some of the contenders during a segment last week. One of the prospects they spoke about was Washington, who was mentioned as one of the best dunkers of all the submissions. For whatever reason, Simmons called attention to Washington’s hair as he was breaking down his highlights with Rose.

“Where do you stand on cornrows in 2013?” Simmons asked Rose.

Rose corrected Simmons and informed him that Washington’s hairstyle was dread locks, to which Simmons replied “or whatever.” Rose said he had no problem with dreads but agreed corn rows had their run.

“Competitive advantage possibly to have the dreads, though” Simmons continued. “They get a little stinky.”

Washington was offended by Simmons’ comments. On his personal website that chronicles his journey to professional basketball, Washington blasted Simmons for perpetuating stereotypes that have contributed to African Americans struggling to gain equality or to find employment.

Bill you’ve covered the NBA for how long? You’re 43 years old. You don’t know the difference between Allen Iverson’s cornrows and Kenneth Faried’s dreads? To make matters worse, when corrected by Jalen you responded with ‘or whatever’ in a laid back attitude almost to say ‘ta-may-toe, toe-mah-toe’. That’s something I would expect from Bill O’Reilly not you Bill Simmons. These elitist brush offs of black culture are far too familiar. My question to you is how do YOU feel about cornrows and dreads in 2013? Is black culture a fad and we have expiration dates on natural hairstyles? Will I be able to wear a fade in 2025 Bill?”

Simmons would likely argue that he was simply making a joke about pop culture, and that may have been the case. However, Washington took the criticism as an attack on appearances many African-Americans cannot control but feel they have to change in order to live up to expectations of society.

Please understand with comments like these you perpetuated a stereotype and in a way contributed  to the struggle for blacks to find employment or simply be respected as equals. An employer’s attitude about something simple as hair can be the difference in securing a job, loan, or any life changing opportunity. Many Black Americans fight an internal battle to be themselves and wear natural hairstyles in the workplace for fear of judgement. Especially Black Women who face pressures to conform to the Eurocentric beauty standards by straightening their hair, wearing weaves, etc.”

Washington added that he chose to cut his dreads off three weeks ago rather than trying to fight against prejudices associated with the hairstyle, and he said Simmons’ comments validated his decision. He said that people associate hairstyles with “thug, marijuana smoker and ‘stinky'” and that he would rather be judged on his abilities than what is on top of his head.

On the surface, Simmons’ comments seemed harmless. The “stinky” remark was totally inappropriate for obvious reasons, and Washington raised some valid points. As we recently learned from Simmons’ feud with Doc Rivers that got completely out of hand, he is no stranger to controversy. It will be interesting to see if he has a response for Washington.

H/T @TheTomasRios
Photo via Nike.com



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