Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio asked for future NBA Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O'Neal's special deputy badge Tuesday after his now-famous freestyle at a New York night club. Surprisingly, Arpaio's decision is not in reference to his freestyle, but his derogatory and foul language. Go figure.
I am by no means a criminal. I haven't even received a speeding ticket in almost six years. But I know two things: Cops (a) use profanity and (b) use racial epithets.
I myself have been a "victim" of both by white cops and black cops. And I know that Satchel Page is not a special case. Being a black man in this country, you can almost expect that at some point in time. It's not a badge that we wear to reserve any special attention. It's just a reality that we have to deal with and challenge. And I'm pretty sure that at least one of Arpaio's officers have used obscenities and racial slurs to enforce their authority over a potential suspect.
In this hyper-sensitive racial climate that we live in today, our celebrities, politicians, and athletes are subject to have their words heavily scrutinized for questionable language. And many times they are treated unfairly. This case is an example of such. I clearly do not believe that Shaq's punishment was justified.
First, we must understand the setting. Shaq was performing a freestyle at a nightclub. Anyone who knows anything about hip-hop and, in particular, in a freestyle setting, also knows that anything goes. Much to the chagrin of the ancient establishment, hip-hop is a genre of music, and, therefore, an art form.
And Shaq's freestyle, as wack as it was, falls under the jurisdiction of the arts, which grants him amnesty for such language. Hip-hop music, especially freestyling, is a platform for raw expression, as it artistically details those deep crevices of one's mind and lays out one's perspectives on life unapologetically.
As an emcee, I can tell you that the stream of consciousness does not go to "oh, who am I going to offend if I say this" when freestyling. And there is a beauty in that.
I personally do not use the now-notorious, but ironically, ever-more popular "N"-word toward anyone, and haven't in about six years. I do use that word in context, however, in reference to one's actions and not a particular person or persons, i.e. someone acting "N"-word-ish (that was silly) as it then somewhat removes racial connotations and becomes its literal definition as someone who is ignorant.
Secondly, although it's almost embarrassing to admit, rap is one of Shaq's occupations. True, we haven't had an album from Shaq since 1998's Respect—knock on wood—but that's a mere technicality. He's been busy winning four NBA titles and other individual awards since then. So he hasn't had time to spare in the lab.
If Shaq had his police badge removed from him for his comments while freestyling, he should've never been given a badge to begin with. It's naive to think that Shaq does not use such language on the court, his most prominent breadwinner. I'm pretty sure that Shaq's language on the court would make that freestyle safe enough for your grandmother to sing along to.
So why would Shaq's badge be removed? Simple: FACETIME!
Aside from the Internet and its allegiance to anonymity, television is the best medium to say and do stupid stuff and be popular for it. And you don't have to become a Paris Hilton, famous for doing nothing. You can settle for just blowing-a-silly-rap-caught-on-video-and-that-is-blown-out-of-proportion famous.
Besides, the ramifications for that are a lot less risky than Ms. Hilton's. He would have been better off saying that Shaq was a lousy cop. Or, better yet, fire him for his entire filmography. That would be a lot more justifiable.
Well, congrats to you, Sheriff Arpaio. You, good sir, have knocked down Satchel Page's writer's block.