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BLOG: NBA writer should explain racial jab at AZ

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Posted at 5:26 PM, Feb 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-23 22:24:46-05

As a near-lifelong Arizona resident, I'm especially sensitive to derogatory comments made about my state or the people who live in it -- especially by those who haven't spent a great deal of time here.

That's why one sentence in a story written by Bleacher Report NBA writer Ric Bucher about former Phoenix Suns and twin brothers Markieff and Marcus Morris has me a little peeved -- and why I believe Bucher owes Arizonans an explanation for what appears to be nothing more than a cheap shot directed toward our state.

Bucher, who used to write for ESPN The Magazine, wrote an in-depth feature story about the Morris twins' struggles in Phoenix and their departures from the Valley.

It looks like Bucher decided to take a cheap shot at Arizona simply because he could.

Bucher's piece began with an interesting story about a fortune teller who predicted the twins' fate in Phoenix. It also discussed their rough upbringing in Philadelphia and how they believe they were mistreated by Suns management.

For the most part, it's an insightful, well-written piece that's worth your time. One sentence toward the beginning of Bucher's story, however, caught my attention.

"Living in a state slow to honor Dr. Martin Luther King and renowned for a six-time re-elected sheriff charged with racial profiling (see: Arpaio, Joe) wasn't always comfortable, but they had each other and just about everything else was ideal."

Wow, I thought. I didn't know the Morris twins had been subjected to racism during their time in Arizona. That's really unfortunate.

So, I kept reading, expecting to come across an example of racist treatment experienced by Markieff and/or Marcus Morris while they lived in the Valley. 

Except... there was none. No mention of racial profiling or any other mistreatment related to the color of the Morris twins' skin while they lived in Arizona.

So, as far as I can tell, there are only two explanations for Bucher's provocative statement.

1. Markieff and/or Marcus complained about racism to Bucher, but Bucher decided to omit their comments. That doesn't seem to make much sense.

2. Bucher decided to take a cheap shot at the state simply because he could. This seems more plausible.

Yes, Arizona has had a rocky history in the race relations department, at least in terms of laws passed and propositions voted for or against. But let's examine Bucher's statement more closely:

Some newer AZ residents might not know the context of Bucher's MLK holiday comment -- and frankly, Bucher doesn't appear to understand it, either. This whole kerfuffle is something that has been misconstrued every which way by national media.

Long story short: In 1990, two competing propositions were placed on the Arizona ballot, both of which would establish a paid MLK holiday in the state. Understandably, confused voters were unsure which measure to approve, and as a result, neither was passed. Two years later, when just one proposition made the ballot, the measure easily passed.

And of course, everyone has an opinion about Sheriff Joe -- some believe he's a bona fide racist, while others believe he's simply doing his best to uphold the rule of law. This debate has raged for years, and you're free to continue it on your own -- but since Arpaio's tactics are geared primarily toward Latinos and not African-Americans, it's difficult to understand the connection here.

Bucher's comments seem to have no relevance to the remainder of his piece.

But regardless of the history behind the MLK flap or Joe Arpaio, the fact remains that Bucher's comments seem to amount to nothing more than a jab directed at Arizona and its residents, with no relevance to the remainder of the piece.

I could be wrong about that, and I hope I am. I couldn't find any phone number or email address for Bucher, so I asked him about the context of the statement via Twitter. I have yet to receive a response.

It's understandable why national media have painted Arizona in a certain way when it comes to race relations, but frankly, most of those media members have rarely, if ever, stepped foot in the Grand Canyon State.

I have to wonder whether Bucher falls into that category. He's from Ohio, went to school in New Hampshire, has written for publications in California and Washington, DC and worked for the Connecticut-based ESPN. He may have connections to Arizona, but I couldn't find any.

What I do know is Bucher has a history of provocative statements. In 2008, he said the Utah Jazz's "vicious" "Mormon" fans are the reason for the team's home-court advantage.

"They are Mormons, and they are in Salt Lake, and there is nothing else there. You know, you gotta smile and be happy all the time," Bucher said before apologizing.

It's true that everyone slips up once in a while, and Bucher's comments from eight years ago have long been forgiven. Likewise, Bucher's comments about Arizona can be forgiven, as well. Heck, there wouldn't be anything to forgive as long as he can put them in the proper context, which he failed to do in his story.

To be sure, there are a few unknowns here. But one thing is clear: Bucher owes the state of Arizona an explanation for his statement -- a statement that detracts from an otherwise outstanding piece.