January 15, 2003
Mr. Shaquille O’Neal
Los Angeles Lakers
555 N. Nash Street
El Seguno, CA 90245
Dear Mr. O’Neal:
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national voice for the Asian Pacific American legal profession. Our mission is to promote justice and equity on behalf of the Asian Pacific American community.
As such, NAPABA cannot sit idly by as Asian Pacific Americans are once again taunted and demeaned by your “comedic attempt” on Yao Ming. Your poor choice of words are seen by some as racist. Your insensitivity towards Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage is alarming. Are you aware that your words are inciting hateful attitudes and speeches against Asian Pacific Americans?
Mr. O’Neal, you are more than just a basketball player. As one of the best players the NBA has ever seen, you are considered by many to be a hero and role model. As a public figure, whether you like it or not, you have a responsibility to the public to cease to perpetuate negative stereotypes of any minority group. You know the sting of discrimination. You know that words, although unintended, have the effect of hurting and demeaning people. In this case, Asian Pacific Americans that have been the object of hate crimes and discrimination. Your words, even done in humor, make it OK for others to imitate an accent or a foreign language, thereby creating the perception that anyone who isn't a part of white America is a foreigner. Your remarks outraged many Asian Pacific Americans and made us feel that again we were considered foreigners or outsiders in America although many have been here for generations. In fact, Chinese Americans helped to build America.
Although we accept your apology given on Friday, January 10, 2003, insult was added to injury when again you resorted to stereotyped “kung fu” like moves seconds later for the for the cameras. Your taunting actions and words are offensive to Asian Pacific Americans just as stereotypes of watermelon and buck-teeth with huge afros are offensive to African Americans.
If your apology is genuine and you are truly sincere about not wanting to offend Asian Pacific Americans, we ask that you make a PSA announcement geared towards young people about how words and actions can offend others and how perpetuating stereotypes can be racist and discriminatory.
We welcome the opportunity to speak with you further about a proactive step in combating racist attitudes and would welcome your suggestions for alternative proactive measures. Feel free to contact me at (916) 739-7099 or Grace Yoo, NAPABA’s Executive Director at (213) 955-8022 to discuss further.
/s/ Ruthe C. Ashley
Ruthe C. Ashley
cc: Mr. David Stern, NBA Commissiner
Mr. Ross Levinson, Fox Sports Radio
Mr. David Hill, Fox Sports Television