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NBA Coach Calls Players 'Thugs'

The debate over what is and isn’t a racial slur was raging Thursday on social media after it was reported that an NBA head coach used questionable language while speaking with his mostly Black players recently. John Beilein, the first-year head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, referred to his team as “thugs” before being forced to explain and walk back what may have been a Freudian slip.

It all started on Wednesday when ESPN reported Beilein told his team during a recent meeting that they were not playing “like a bunch of thugs” anymore. The Cavaliers have one of the worst records in the league and have been hovering near or at the bottom of the standings all season long, so that “thugs” reference seemed to catch the players off-guard. Citing “league sources,” ESPN wrote that the “players left the room initially stunned and were increasingly disturbed as they dispersed out of the meeting.”

After the Cavalier’s general manager learned of the controversy, he told Beilein about it, prompting the coach to offer a mea culpa and inexplicably offering up the excuse that he was unfamiliar with the connotations behind the word “thug.” Further, Beilein said he meant to use another word that rhymes with “thugs,” ESPN reported.

“I didn’t realize that I had said the word ‘thugs,’ but my staff told me later I did and so I must have said it,” Beilein said to ESPN on Wednesday night. “I meant to say slugs, as in slow-moving. We weren’t playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That’s what I was trying to say. I’ve already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand.”

The thing is, though, that no one seems to believe Beilein and his excuse.

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