Statement issued before game vs. Lakers
PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Trail Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace apologized Saturday for using objectionable language in an interview in which he criticized the NBA's "white establishment."
"I made a few comments that some people found objectionable," Wallace said in a statement. "Like everyone, I have a right to express an opinion, which I did.
"But, I regret using street language to express my opinion because everyone has focused on these few comments when I said other things. It was not my intent to offend anyone."
Wallace's statement, issued before the Blazers' game against the Los Angeles Lakers, was punctuated by his apology.
"So, if I offended any of my teammates, fellow NBA players, the Trail Blazer fans and organization, I apologize," he said. "I have nothing more to say about this matter."
On Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern called Wallace's comments to The Oregonian newspaper "ignorant and offensive to all NBA players."
In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday, Wallace charged that the league's white establishment is exploiting young black athletes to enrich itself.
The 29-year-old Wallace said he's not like the younger players who get "caught up and captivated into the league."
"No. I see behind the lines. I see behind the false screens. I know what this business is all about. I know the commissioner of this league makes more than three-quarters of the players in this league," he said.
Some of Wallace's comments included objectionable language.
"Mr. Wallace's hateful diatribe was ignorant and offensive to all NBA players," Stern said. "I refuse to enhance his heightened sense of deprivation by publicly debating with him.
"Since Mr. Wallace did not direct his comments at any particular individuals other than me, I think it best to leave it to the Trail Blazers' organization and its players and fans to determine the attitudes by which they wish to be defined."
Wallace, in his eighth year with Portland, is set to earn nearly $17 million this season. He is averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Last season, Wallace was suspended by the league for seven games for threatening an official on the loading dock at the Rose Garden Arena after a game. It was the longest suspension ever handed down that did not involve physical contact or substance abuse.
In the 2000-01 season, he set the NBA record with 41 technical fouls.
Wallace's comments are the latest problem to befall the Blazers, who have been plagued by player arrests and team infighting since last season.
"I agree with the commissioner that there is no reason to continue the public debate on this issue," Blazers president Steve Patterson said.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said that as a former player, he understands the idea of questioning authority, but said Wallace hurt himself by injecting race into the issue.
"It's not about the money, it's about the little things that go with the job that I think gets to some of the players," Jackson said.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press