[NEW UPDATE 3/9: Mark Cuban apologizes for homophobic joke]
I've got a proper roundup of last weekend's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in this week's issue, but here's a piece that didn't quite fit.
In a live-taping of his B.S. Report Podcast at the Sloan Conference on Saturday afternoon, Bill Simmons interviewed Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban onstage. Cuban was both combative and insightful -- neither side of his personality being any surprise to basketball watchers. He took visible glee in taking shots at Simmons, and not in a particularly good-natured way. At one point, he sneered that he wished Simmons ran an NBA team -- so that the Mavericks could crush them.
The atmosphere turned even weirder when Cuban began telling the story of how he'd almost fired a Mavs employee for encouraging Dallas fans to do the wave. Cuban hates the wave. "I'd rather have 60 minutes of Kiss Cam," he said, to laughs. Simmons has long been on record as being a fan of the Kiss Cam -- he's even jokingly suggested that it become its own TV show -- and piped up in favor of it. "I like the Kiss Cam," Simmons said.
"That's because you and your boyfriend are always on it," Cuban spat. He quickly tried to backtrack, mumbling something about what he'd just said not being a gender-specific remark. Except, as Yahoo!'s Ball Don't Lie blog quickly tweeted, that it was clearly a very gender specific remark.
You could practically hear the crickets chirp. For those of you coming in cold: Simmons is married with kids. And the NBA, which has had several high-profile instances of its players using homophobic language, has gone so far as to create a PSA begging kids not to use homophobic slurs in precisely the way Cuban did onstage, in a public forum being broadcast on the internet. The room may or may not have been stacked with NBA general managers and league officials at that moment -- but a bunch of them were at the conference. Simmons let the comment pass without comment, rolled with the punch, and moved on to the topic of the Mavs' new arena.
When ESPN posted the podcast version of the Simmons-Cuban conversation on Monday, the entire "boyfriend" exchange was noticeably absent. One is tempted to salute them for not re-broadcasting Cuban's juvenile remark-- but the omission also protects Cuban, a valued ESPN source (well, when they're not bleeping him, as they do elsewhere in the podcast), from further scrutiny for that remark. You can listen to the podcast here; the edit was made around the 41-minute mark. As for the boyfriend remark: it may be lost to history, unless the Sloan Conference posts its own recording of the event.
[UPDATE, MARCH 9: Deadspin has unearthed a crappy audio recording of the
edited gay joke, and Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie blog quotes ESPN as saying,
"'The B.S. Report' podcasts are routinely edited and it was decided to
drop those remarks out of the posted podcast."]
Clearly ESPN felt the remark was controversial enough to censor; the question is whether they had an obligation not to brush the remark under the rug. At the very least, Cuban should've apologized -- and should still be asked to do so -- instead of pretending he hadn't said something blatantly offensive.