Here's the thing about saying something controversial: people are then going to look back through everything you've ever said to find more. Paul Shirley's got a few nuggets in his past.
First things first: Paul wrote a brief response to the criticism his Haiti column provoked, and we would be remiss in not highlighting it.
[I]t was not my intent to suggest that I don't care about the fate of Haiti, or that I am not sympathetic to the people who make up the huge numbers and heartbreaking images we see flashed across our television and computer screens. Instead, my goal was to question the psychology of donating, the way we react to natural disasters and the nature of responsibility leading up to and immediately after those disasters.
Fine. But before we can all move on, Salon dug through the latest (and last) ESPN.com column of the man who once said "I have dealt with the issues of race in athletics all of my life. It is very difficult to make it in the world of basketball as a white person."
They found a few snippets that are not necessarily instructive, but certainly eye-opening in context. First, an unfortunate simile involving the previous third world cause du jour:
As such, by the time my family had finished tiding its collective yule, my cache of music was as depleted as a UN rice truck after six hours in a Sudanese refugee camp.
Then a pair of quotes that illuminate...something.
I'm no great spokesman for race relations; many of the black men around whom I've spent time shared a seething dislike for me that had me checking my pockets to make sure I hadn't stolen something from them.
As I've finished this column, it has occurred to me that this will be posted the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I hate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I think it's a divisive holiday. Instead of celebrating an intelligent man who happened to be black, there are those (and they are many) who would have us celebrate MLK because he's a black man who happened to be intelligent.
Cherry-picking quotes do not prove a point. So don't by any means read this and then go, "Paul Shirley is racist!" But we do have a pattern here, not necessarily showing a lack of sympathy, but certainly proving that he doesn't have a sense of what polite company would find unacceptable. This is not always a bad thing; but the unfiltered voice must be prepared to receive criticism.