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Shaquille O’neal Was Singing And Dancing In A Turkey Suit Is This Coonery Or Good Clean Fun.

May 7, 2015 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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( Of course the Internet is laced with people who comment on articles after simply reading the title, so I should start by saying that I’m not speaking to these people.  There are also those who will interpret an open conversation to be an accusation against Shaquille O’neal. I’m not talking to those people either.

But for those who are truly listening, I’d like to ask a simple, yet difficult question that is almost entirely devoid of prejudgement.  Nor am I accusing TNT or anyone else of racism, at least not the deliberate kind. Sometimes, when a society is so accustomed to groups of people playing a specific role, it’s easy to think that the world operates exactly the way it should be. But an analysis of the black man’s historic role as the clown and court jester reminds us that there may be more to what we’re seeing than meets the eye.

Rather than sharing my opinion, I am looking to form my point of view based on the remarks of others who might provide differing perspectives. Maybe by critically analyzing the world in which we live, we can better understand why black males tend to be locked out of certain opportunities in our society.

I’ve always loved Shaquille O’neal and KennySmith, two sports analysts on TNT.  I won’t talk much about Charles Barkley, who sometimes seems to use his lips without first consulting his brain cells.  I’ve never met these guys, but Kenny comes off as thoughtful, connected and conscientious.

Shaq is, at the very least, the most dominant force I’ve ever seen step onto a basketball court.  He has also pulled some extraordinary business moves since retirement, creating the kind of economic model that every professional athlete should replicate.  In other words, Shaq is the man.Shaquille-O-Neal-fall-2015

With that being said, I must confess that I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw Shaq rapping (or maybe he was just singing this time) on television wearing a Turkey suit.  He was also wearing no pants at the time, surely getting a ton of laughs in the process.  In the background, I saw another brother dancing along to the song Shaq was performing (I think it was Kenny).  It was, shall we say, “interesting.”

This isn’t the only time I’ve seen Shaq provide the laughs for the show.  It seems to happen every week and gets stranger and stranger each time.   So, the idea that a 43-year old man has to sing, dance, rap, fall down, and sprint across the stage to keep his job is actually a little bit scary.   “Shaqtin  a fool” is like a pastor’s wife choosing to be sexually-enticing in public:  Shifting the game up a little bit can add excitement to an otherwise uninteresting situation, but going overboard can stripped an honorable person of his/her dignity.

Shaq is a better rapper than most of us.  I actually bought a couple of his albums in the 1990s, and his song with the late Notorious B.I.G. “You can’t stand the Reign” remains as one of my favorite songs of all-time.  So, while it’s expected that the fun-loving big guy (he’s always been known to be light-hearted, which makes him loveable) might want to rap/sing/dance to keep the show interesting, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was necessary for this intelligent black man to wear a turkey suit and no pants in order to make people laugh.

Watching this video made me think.  I reflected on all of the years in which I’ve seen black men add heavy doses of comedy, clowning, and other forms of entertainment to the TNT sports show (“Inside the NBA”), making it one of the most successful on TV.  But I don’t recall very many times when the host, Ernie Johnson, ever had to dance, sing, rap, run, jump, wear a costume or take off his pants in order to keep his job.

So, this led me to ask at least one question – there might be more later on:

What if the black men on the show told the producers that they don’t want to be recognized for dancing, jumping, running and clowning and wanted to instead be recognized solely for their ability to analyze basketball games?  If they were to be as serious as Ernie Johnson, would they keep their jobs or be told to hit the bricks?

This is an important question because it also feeds back to why there are many universities who gladly accept scores of black men who can dribble basketballs and throw footballs, but are reluctant to admit black students or hire black coaches or professors.   In fact, throughout our society, black men have “a place:”  It’s usually on stage, on the court, in the unemployment line or in a prison cell.  Those who are determined to be kings are often told that they can be more successful as court jesters.

As I watched Shaq sing and dance with no pants in a turkey suit, I also thought about many television networks that gladly feature black entertainers and athletes, but ignore the thousands of black doctors, lawyers and professors who can provide commentary that is as good or better than the many whites we see on TV every day.  In fact, it goes back to the long-held ideal that black men are most successful when they work overtime to make white people feel comfortable.

Finally, the role of the black men on TNT relative to Ernie Johnson reminds me of the countless Hollywood flicks that feature a very serious, intelligent and brave white police officer with a cowardly black sidekick provided for comic relief.  Have we become so addicted to this formula that we are afraid to even question it?  How often is the black guy the serious and brave one, with the white guy being the hilarious coward?  I’m not judging, I’m just asking.

Are black people put on this earth to provide comic relief or do we have the capacity to be accepted in mainstream America for more serious roles?

Shaq’s amazing capacity to laugh at himself is certainly enjoyable and admirable.  But I certainly hope that we at least consider the importance of maintaining balance.  With all the respect I have for Shaquille O’neal, I’d hate for all of his brilliance and business savvy to be lost because people think he keeps his job by singing and dancing with no pants while wearing a turkey suit.

I am asking these questions out loud, and I’m hoping that people can give me the answer.  If Shaquille, Kenny or Charles wanted to switch roles with Ernie and become “the more serious guy,” would they be given that opportunity or be put back in their place?  You tell me, I’m still trying to figure this one out.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  For more information, please visit

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