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Lawmaker apologizes for NBA tweet

By Don Davis

Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota state Rep. Pat Garofalo said he was just trying to be funny when he tweeted an item that has drawn national attention with charges that it was racist.

The prolific Twitter user, a Farmington Republican, said Monday that he unfairly painted all National Basketball Association players as lawless and that he didn't intend his tweet as racist.

At 4:30 p.m. Sunday Garofalo posted a tweet saying: "Let's be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/possible exception of increase in streetcrime."

The tweet drew immediate criticism such as: "The racial and racist undertones in this comment is beyond alarming."

The lawmaker apologized Monday, hours after seeing his name scroll across the television screen while watching ESPN at the gym.

"I take back my entire tweet," Garofalo told reporters. "I completely apologize. It was not my intent to criticize those who were not worthy of criticism."

He told reporters that he is not racist, tweeted his apology and released a formal apology.

"I'm responsible for my actions and just want to promise everybody I'll do my best to not make that mistake again," he said.

Garofalo, who is seeking his sixth two-year House term, said the NBA has many examples of players and owners "who are role models for our communities and for our country."

Many people took his original tweet as derogatory against blacks, since about three-fourths of NBA players are black.

The lawmaker said his tweet was meant to refer to the high arrest rate of NBA players.

Garofalo, who is well known for his frequent and sometimes edgy tweets, said he received a death threat.

Several national sports commentators criticized Garofalo.

"Though Garofalo is rightfully getting shredded on Twitter, he has a fair share of defenders who believe the tweet was not only not racist, but speaks the truth," Sports Illustrated's Ben Sin wrote. "Sad."

People involved with Minnesota's NBA team, the Timberwolves, had little to say about the matter.

"That has nothing to do with us, I don't think there is any reason for us to say anything about it," Coach Rick Adelman said.

Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin cited how NBA players give back to the community as a positive image that outweighs the negative one some say was left by Garofalo.

"The public's reaction speaks for itself," Martin said. "As the NBA, as a whole, we do a great job of giving back to the community, so we don't worry about it too much."

"It's just his opinion, to be honest," guard Corey Brewer said.

While many indicated they liked Garofalo's comment on Twitter when they "favorited" it and hundreds sent the tweet to their followers, it attracted widespread criticism.

"There's more criminals in your profession than the nba buddy," one person tweeted.

"#patgarofalo  is embarrassment to Minnesota for making national news with racist statements. All Minnesotans aren’t like this twerp!" added another.

One Twitter user said: "And THIS is the mentality of a man tasked with creating laws in the state of Minnesota!!"

The St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this story.