Clippers Iran-Gate: Details Emerge

Jose SalviatiCorrespondent IINovember 21, 2009

Where Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith's comments drew the ire of a single viewer, Fox's decision to suspend the pair seems to have incited a crowd.

"The suspensions were stupid, and a bad precedent as well."

"I'm flabbergasted."

"So what if they mispronounced a word."

Those comments left by Bill, Mike and Karl seem to echo the sentiment of Clipper fan and non-fan alike.  Even my wife, a decidedly unabashed Clipper NON-fan was taken aback when I told her the reason for and single-source that had brought on the suspension.

Details about that single source have emerged.  Clipper season ticket holder Arya Towfighi was watching the game with his young son in the room when the brief back-and-forth between Lawler and Smith took place.

The Boston born Towfighi wanted to replay the comment but ushered his son out of the room before doing so.  "I didn't want my son to hear that," Towfighi said.  He then proceeded to email the LA Times, the Clippers and Fox Sports executives.

Fox initially acted appropriately, in my opinion, by calling Mr. Towfighi and apologizing.  A classy move that Towfighi was satisfied with.  Fox however felt it wasn't enough and suspended the pair for one game.

It's easy to point fingers and bash when someone is wronged in a way that is so obvious to all.  This instance however does not fall into that category.  Mr. Towfihi was offended and he had a right to complain and Lawler and Smith should have been more sensitive.

Karl, a writer for B/R who's comment I included above, went on to say "But how ignorant do you have to be not to know the pronunciation of Iran by this point in time?"

Cyrus Hadavi, a member of the Alliance of Iranian Americans in L.A., agrees saying he was left "kind of speechless. In this day and age, why would someone say something like this? Were they trying to offend a whole nation?"

No one thinks either Lawler or Smith were trying to offend a whole nation.  Clipper fan Mike said it best when he wrote that anyone "...who has ever listened to Lawler & Smith broadcast for more than one game [know] that those two guys meant anything other than comedy when referring to the Iranian player mentioned in this story."

Two sides to every story.

Were Lawler and Smith guilty of insensitivity and ignorance? Yes.  Once again, was that insensitivity and ignorance worthy of a suspension? No.

In his first public comment since the suspension Lawler said, "I'm really sorry with the decision. I deeply regret that anything we said offended even one good Clipper fan or anyone else. I am not a bigot."

Smith, apparently gun-shy about saying anything even remotely controversial said only "Ralph is an incredible broadcaster, an amazing colleague and a wonderful friend."

So we are left today to reflect on decisions made and voice our opinion.  That is the wonder of the blog isn't it?  With that in mind I humbly submit my final grades to each participant of this unfortunate situation.

Mr. Towfighi—Grade A

Hard to fault the man.  He was offended and he reacted.  One could argue he had no reason to be offended, but that's to personal a claim to make.  What offends one may not offend many but it is an offence nonetheless.  He did the right thing in protecting his son and letting his voice be heard.

Lawler and Smith—Grade C

Not a pass, not a fail.  Should they have known the correct pronunciation of Iranian? As professional broadcasters I would assume so.  Was not knowing the correct pronunciation an egregious flaw? Of course not.

Fox—Grade D-

They started strongly by calling Mr. Towfighi but the followup suspensions were uncalled for.  I would bump this up to a C if Fox were to apologize to Lawler and Smith for the unnecessary suspensions.  I won't hold my breath.

I also feel the need to point out that Fox added fuel to the fire by not mentioning the longtime Clipper announcers after unceremoniously replacing them with Michael Eaves and Don MacLean.  The news was out, everyone was aware of the suspensions but after 25 years behind the mike having never missed a game neither Eaves or MacLean made mention of Lawler!


Smith's absence was also ignored no doubt on orders from Fox.

Mark November 29 on your calendar Clipper fans.  In just eight short days the Grizzlies arrive in Los Angeles where the Clippers had long before this incident planned to promote the Grizzlie center and Iranian born Haddadi at the center of the recent storm with "Iranian Heritage Day"

Fans will get a chance to meet Haddadi before the 12:30 p.m. game, get his autograph and an 8-by-10 photo of the center.

It's impossible to make this stuff up.

Ralph and Mike, I know you are aware of this but remember please—its pronounced "e-ranian"!  I speak for all Clipper fans I'm sure when I say you were missed last night.