This week, the Sacramento Kings scrapped a commemorative Lunar New Year t-shirt giveaway celebrating the Year of the Monkey after a player noted the shirts could be deemed offensive during Black History Month.
Sacramento Kings Pull 'Year of the Monkey' Shirts From Seats
Player DeMarcus Cousins took issue with the shirt design, which depicted a monkey in Kings colors. The shirts were supposed to be given out to fans on Monday night during Sacramento's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, but were pulled at the last minute after Cousins raised the issue with team management.
February 8 is the start of the Lunar New Year -- the Year of the Monkey -- but the team planned to give out the shirts on February 1... which also happens to be the first day of Black History Month. Players and coaches were already wearing shirts observing Black History Month on that day.
Associations between Black people and monkeys have been historically used in racist imagery. Someone in the Kings organization was clearly not paying attention to the unintended implications of this promotion.
Responding to Cousins' concerns, the Kings pulled the shirts from seats before fans arrived at Sleep Train Arena. Bucks TV analyst and former player Marques Johnson tweeted a photo of staff collecting the shirts:
DeMarcus voices his displeasure and to the Kings credit they pull the Monkey T Shirts... pic.twitter.com/bHSz4KVinh— Marques Johnson (@olskool888) February 2, 2016
Good move Kings. Year of Monkey Tees on 1 st day of Black History Month not a good look. Thanks DeMarcus... pic.twitter.com/wvqkdgdr7r— Marques Johnson (@olskool888) February 2, 2016
"We all need a lesson in sensitivity," Kings' president Chris Granger told The Sacramento Bee. "In an effort to celebrate Chinese New Year, we had some concerns about the t-shirt giveaway, so we pulled them all before the doors opened. Certainly we don't want to offend anybody, and we acted as soon as we heard the concern."
There is a league-wide initiative this season for teams to commemorate the Lunar New Year "in some fashion," and the rest of the Kings' Lunar New Year celebration continued as scheduled. Festivities included Kings Dancers performing a ribbon dance, a Lunar New Year drum line and a Mandarin emcee.
While I really appreciate the NBA's efforts to be inclusive and acknowledge the traditions of the Lunar New Year, the Kings definitely overlooked the optics and timing of the Year of the Monkey-themed giveaway. The concerns were valid, and it was a good call to yank the shirts. Every little step...
More here: Kings nix T-shirt giveaway after DeMarcus Cousins takes issue