Louis CK was tweeting yesterday about the low quality of public education. He debated back and forth with some people on the issue itself, disagreeing with some of them. In the end, he surmised that one thing he hates about Twitter is that if someone tweets him with a differing opinion and he responds to it, that person now gets treated like crap by tons of people, simply because a celebrity they adore disagrees with them.
This is where I have a problem with Shaq's behavior. He's legendary for being a "jokester" and for being one of the "funniest guys in the league." I, too, am legendary (in my own mind, at least) for being one of the funniest people my friends, family and coworkers know. So I tend to be given the same leniency by people around me when it comes to my jokes and pranks, which can be borderline offensive and almost mean-spirited. So I totally get it, with Shaq. It's kind of expected of us. We live to be funny. We need the attention that comes from it. It's expected of us. The main difference between me and Shaq though? I'm not famous (and I'm actually funny, but more on that later). Shaq, on the other hand, is famous. Like, really famous. So famous he had his own video game for the Sega Genesis, which I owned as a kid, because as a kid I adored Shaq. Which basically tells you that kids are, by and large, fucking stupid. This also explains Shaq's comedic appeal.
Back to my point: as noted in my first paragraph, celebrities hold a lot of sway. When the uber-famous direct anything remotely negative towards a regular Joe/Jane, whether its disagreeing with an opinion or making fun of an appearance, that celebrity unwittingly calls to arms his/her adoring peons. Said peons become a pack of trolls with the anonymity of the internet to protect their virtual dung slinging. So when Shaq makes fun of the way a guy looks it opens the floodgates and the poop is thrown.
Honestly, it doesn't matter that Shaq didn't know the man was disabled. Hell, it doesn't even matter that the guy is disabled. Shaq made fun of a guy who really has no power to defend himself. Shaq can make fun of Dwight Howard all he likes. Dwight can back himself up. He has the celebrity status and the audience to do so. He can take to Twitter or television and poke fun back. Or he can stick it to Shaq with his play on the court, which he recently realized is the best course of action. But the disabled guy who looks a little different? There's not a thing he can do to get back at Shaq. It's David vs Goliath, but in this case David's an atheist with no slingshot.
At some point, Shaq needs to realize that purely because of who he is, anything he does could subject to public scrutiny, especially the thing he posts to social media for the world to see. This fact will, thankfully, be the end of Donald Sterling in the NBA. I don't want to compare Shaq to Sterling. Shaq's actions were an ill-advised mistake that he's admitted to and apologized for. Sterling has done neither because he's a racist piece of shit who karma is going to have a field day with. Shaq's actions may not be on the same level as Sterling's, but that doesn't make them okay. Why does Shaq get a pass for being offensive simply because he apologizes and says he was trying to be funny?
Personally, I can't remember a single time where I've laughed at a single one of Shaq's "jokes." Not even after he became part owner of the Kings, and it seemed like the right thing to do because he's one of us now. He's just not that funny. I get the sense that no one around him wants to say "Hey, Shaq, we're only laughing because we feel like we have to, dude." Yet he keeps telling those jokes. And that's his prerogative because he's a mega-famous, likable millionaire. If he wants to keep "being funny," I'm completely okay with it. If he wants to keep being offensive and hurt innocent people thinking he can get away with a half-assed apology later, I have to draw the line.