Originally published on WayneWashingtonHoops.com.
Dear Bill Simmons,
Last Friday I was featured in a video as one of the best dunkers in the Nike Summer Is Serious Draft. (video embedded above). I would like you to know I'm a huge fan of Grantland and the Jalen Rose Podcast. It was almost surreal to see you guys say my name and comment on how impressive my dunks were. Being featured on the video was a very cool experience to say the least, but something didn't feel right.
Bill you seemed to be distracted by my "cornrows" which led you to make several ill-informed comments. You should be thankful Jalen was there to correct you time and time again. Not only did you make me uncomfortable, you made other viewers uncomfortable, and I'm sure you made Jalen uncomfortable. You would never know because Jalen is a pro and did his best to refocus your attention back to the task at hand which was discussing dunks.
"How do you feel about cornrows in 2013?" 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, but not 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? Questlove wearing his afro in 2013 must really grind your gears considering that was supposed to be over in the 70's, right?
Then you went on to say I would have a competitive advantage during a game because "they can get a little stinky." Do I look like a dirty person Bill? Or maybe it wasn't a personal jab and you believe all dreads stink? Bill not only did you further perpetuate a myth/stereotype, but you did this on one of the biggest platforms in sports entertainment. Nike and Grantland collaborating on a project is kind of a big deal.
Preventing body odor and placing a value on personal grooming are attributes based on an individual. Whether someone is "stinky" or not has nothing to do with a hairstyle. Bill, when you see men like LZ Granderson, Laphonso Ellis, or Jeff Johnson aka Cousin Jeff do you believe their hair is stinky? I hope not. Personally I think Dog the Bounty Hunter's hair stinks because he looks dirty, not because of the length or style of his hair. Bill, dreads don't stink. Dirty people stink.
Bill, you aren't the Sports Guy anymore. You represented Nike, ESPN, and most importantly yourself in this video. Please understand that 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 as 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. Not only men but especially black women who face pressures to conform to the Eurocentric beauty standards by straightening their hair, wearing weaves, etc.
Three weeks ago, before you and Jalen ever made this video, I decided to cut my dreads off. Rather than continue to fight against prejudice and preconceived notions, I chose to cut my hair. I simply grew tired of rolling the dice on being judged by my hair rather than my skills and personality. My hair was a part of me and the decision was not easy, but after hearing you, Bill Simmons, make those comments I was reassured that I made the right decision for my future. Sadly, people associate certain stereotypes (thug, marijuana smoker, "stinky") with a natural hairstyle.
Let's set the record straight though, I am not angry at you, Bill. I was actually embarrassed for you while watching the video. You came across as a sheltered, uncultured snob. I can't tell if you were trying hard to get a cheap laugh or simply being yourself. I do know this wasn't the first time you put your foot in your mouth on camera and probably won't be the last. Hopefully you can continue to learn from your mistakes. I'm not going to rally and hire Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, but understand that your comments hit close to home for many black Americans. You reduced a moment of praise to ill-informed "schtick" that can be perceived as offensive. Do I think you are a racist or a bigot? No. Do I think you are a habitual line stepper that needs to think before you speak? Yes.
Don't get fired, Bill. I actually like Grantland.
Wayne Washington is a professional basketball player who is currently seeking an opportunity to play in a European league or the NBA D-League. You can learn more about him on his personal website.