Former professional basketball player Lamar Odom thinks that the Phoenix Suns’ mascot is racist, and ought to be removed.
Odom made his feelings known when he appeared on the podcast “The Bootleg Kev Podcast”. The podcast is hosted by hip-hop on-air personality and Suns fan Bootleg Kev. The host was complaining about the basketball team’s owner, Robert Sarver, calling him “the cheapest owner in basketball.”
The Suns’ owner and the organization have come under fire recently for a variety of misconduct allegations directed at Sarver. What hadn’t been criticized, however, was their mascot. The two-time NBA champion upended that reality.
“I feel bad for the Suns fans because they ain’t even gonna get what y’all probably deserve until, probably until you change the mascot,” Odom said in response to Kev’s well-founded criticisms of Sarver. “What does that mean? You don’t like the gorilla? Do you think there’s some racial connotations with the Suns gorilla?” Bootleg Kev asked.
Odom, contorting his face with derision, said he didn’t like the gorilla. “C’mon, bro. The thing that’s funny is they kind of slid that one by for all these years,” Odom said. “Nobody says anything about that.”
Odom continued to illustrate his contention with the great ape mascot simply known as the Gorilla, or ‘Go’, for short. “Gorillas, in the desert, you can’t find any. You could probably find a cactus. … In basketball, just like, come on, bro. But you know what’s so, really crazy about it? They just tried it because they wanted to get the fans involved, and that’s the reason why they kept it ’cause the fans loved it.”
The story of the inception of the gorilla mascot isn’t nefarious at all. It started in 1980 when a man working for a telegram service was hired to go to a Phoenix Suns game dressed in a gorilla suit. Other fans took notice, liked what they saw, and continued to hire him to attend the games. Before the end of that season, the organization had reached out to the unofficial mascot in an effort to formalize their relationship. Since then, the mascot has become a staple of the franchise, repelling from the roof of the stadium, riling up the crowds, and tumbling straight into the hearts of the Phoenix Suns faithful. The Gorilla was the first mascot to be inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame.
The former Los Angeles Laker didn’t make the case that the mascot was intentionally racist, but insisted that it was “not good representation” for a state that was the last to recognize Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday.
Odom, who won the 2011 Sixth Man of the Year award, said he was surprised that veteran Suns point guard Chris Paul hadn’t spoken up about it. Paul has previously made statements condemning Sarver’s behavior as the controversy came to light.
“I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated,” Paul tweeted back in September.
I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior. My heart goes out to all of the people that were affected.
— Chris Paul (@CP3) September 15, 2022
Odom criticized the mascot’s acrobatics saying that it was a “wild, crazy gorilla. He ain’t tame or nothing like that.” In response, Bootleg Kev laughed and said,”I mean, he’s a mascot.”
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