Shaq drops his Twitter feud with JaVale McGee on orders from the top
O’Neal’s mom says it’s gone far enough while Pamela McGee still has the gloves on
Before he could tweet JaVale McGee again or say something on TV past the point of no return – something that might begin, “Yo mama” – Shaquille O’Neal received a telephone call from straight up the chain of command.
“I have orders from the top to leave it alone,” O’Neal said past midnight on Saturday.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver?
“No,” O’Neal said. “My mama. Just say Shaq’s mom called him, told him, ‘Stop this silliness. Leave him alone.’ So that’s the end of the beef. You won’t be hearing about it from my side anymore. Mama has spoken.”
Said Lucille O’Neal earlier Saturday evening from her Orlando, Florida, home, “It’s not funny anymore, seeing the things they’re saying to each other. They need to squash this and move on.”
McGee’s mama called later to essentially say: Not so fast.
“He cyberbullied my son,” Pamela McGee said in an emotional, 30-minute conversation. “Totally inappropriate. Shaquille needs to lose his job or be suspended. The NBA needs to make a stand.”
And you thought the regular season didn’t matter.
In a season of hyperbolic NBA feuds, this one pitting 7-footers from different generations – O’Neal, the Hall of Fame center and TNT analyst, vs. McGee, suddenly an impact role player with the Golden State Warriors, hell-bent on breaking the Knucklehead for Life title bestowed upon him by O’Neal and others – has grown particularly disturbing and downright ugly.
It began last week as another send-up of McGee’s on-court gaffes as part of a satirical, 7-year-old segment on Inside the NBA called Shaqtin’ a Fool in which O’Neal, Charles Barkley and others on the TNT set poke fun at players’ lowlights.
But McGee, fed up with being a foil for O’Neal’s popular segment, tweeted Shaq that he should “EAD,” which does not translate to Eat All (Your) Dinner in the Urban Dictionary. He went further, accusing O’Neal for the second time in two months of “cooning,” playing the black minstrel for a white audience, and in doing so tearing other black men down.
O’Neal doubled down, saying McGee would always be known for Shaqtin’ a Fool, added a crude hashtag and included a photoshopped image of McGee’s face on what appears to be a homeless man. The rotund, retired 45-year-old then sounded as if he might physically discipline the 30-year-old Warriors center. The tweet read, in part:
“@JaValeMcGee34 don’t be acting like u a g I’ll smack the s— out yo bum a–”
This is what happens when a sensitive player like McGee is fed up with being pilloried for entertainment purposes. He steps into the vortex where celebrity is conflated with real life, and the mixing of the two can be explosive. (McGee was not available for comment on Sunday. His agent, B.J. Armstrong, declined to comment.)
McGee threw the “coon” label at O’Neal back in January via Twitter. O’Neal responded to it then by trying to defuse the situation. “I’m just playing@JaValeMcGee34 keep your pants on dude.”
But after O’Neal’s latest installment – titled Dr. Strange after the comic book character and involving some narration and Kazaam-like acting– both men obliterated the boundaries between real life and television satire.
McGee went straight to: I’m a real person and you’re making me look dumb. O’Neal responded with: Be happy I made you famous, you thin-skinned millennial.
Lucille O’Neal took time from a book signing of her last piece of nonfiction, Walk Like You Have Somewhere To Go, when reached Saturday. She said her son is not malicious, and that the threat of violence is just “slang for ‘Be quiet.’ ”
“Charles tells Shaquille all the time on the show, ‘I’m going to slap you,’ but he doesn’t mean it,” O’Neal’s mom said. “My take on it? People are asked to send in videos for Shaqtin’ a Fool. This isn’t just Shaquille’s idea. It’s all in fun. Now, I understand how after a while JaVale could get tired of it. Look at how many times he’s been laughed at.
“Bottom line, the mouth gets us in a lot of trouble. This is now reminding me of young kids on the playground, where one boy gotta have the last word. Sometimes you need to just walk away.”
Her main point is the sandbox drama needs to end. “It’s TV, something like Shaqtin’ a Fool brings a little excitement and fun. There’s no disrespect personally. I just feel it’s been taken out of context. Now it’s not funny anymore. It’s not funny. They need to stop.”
(Reporter’s interlude: This is where I hoped to ask Pamela McGee if she and Lucille O’Neal would play mediator for their salty sons. That angle didn’t quite pan out.)
“If you really want to get technical with it, it’s bullying,” Pamela McGee said from her home in Northern Virginia. “We all have little jokes and stuff. But when you continue to pick on just one person – as his career is resurrecting – there’s nothing to it but bullying. And it’s unacceptable. You can’t allow someone to continue to do this who represents TNT and the NBA.
“He is a representative of TNT and the NBA. Broadcasters are held to a higher authority. He should lose his job.”
Pamela McGee, a former WNBA player who was a member of USC’s national title team featuring Cheryl Miller, kept going. She said she was writing to Silver to request that O’Neal be punished by the league office. She doesn’t believe that Shaqtin’ a Fool is amusing, and contended that O’Neal, as a former member of the NBA fraternity, should “honor the stripes.”
“And, besides, what 45-year-old man will say, I’m going to [slap the s–] out of a current player? He belittles, he berates Dwight Howard. He belittles, he berates [Kendrick] Perkins. But he sits in a glass house. And when people throw back stones, it’s an issue. No. He has to be held accountable.”
Asked if she thought her son went too far by using “cooning” to depict O’Neal’s antics on the show, which include jabs at players of all ethnicities, Pamela McGee said, “No.”
“OK, the NBA is 98 percent African-American. [73 percent black, according to a 2015-16 study]. He is bullying men of color. When you bully men of color who play your same position … we as a society have to stop condoning ignorant behavior. And, yes, as African-Americans, we have always had individuals who will sell out their communities for two barrels of rum. This is straight-up black-on-black oppression.”
Pamela McGee wasn’t done. This wasn’t just an instance of throwing shade on her son. This was a window into a suddenly uncivil America.
“All of us are guilty if we sit back and laugh and condone it,” she added. “We’re becoming a nation where we now have someone in the White House saying it’s now OK to bully and disrespect. Disrespect people who don’t look like us, talk like us or think like us. All of us should be embarrassed.
“People say it’s just a TV show, but at the end of the day these are young men. This is somebody’s son, this is somebody’s family. I now wake up in the morning with a bad taste in my mouth like a dry heave right before I have to throw up. I’m embarrassed by what we’ve become as a society.”
Some of Pamela McGee’s words were relayed to O’Neal on Saturday. He said if she was that upset, she could call him and talk about the issue.
O’Neal, for his part, can’t understand why a humorous segment that’s been running for years should now be off-limits for criticism of players. He’s clowned Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Otto Porter, Nick Young and Ron Artest over the years, and never received any feedback from them other than you-got-me laughs and self-deprecating humor.
“When Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], Wilt [Chamberlain] and Bill [Walton] came at me when I was young, for the most part I just took it. I never said nothing until I won a title. And even then, I realized why they were criticizing me.
“You know what I was really bothered by – the thing that really got me? Calling me a coon. That’s like calling me a n—–. I didn’t see that coming at all. And that’s mainly why I responded like I did.”
O’Neal said his part of it ends now, that he never saw it getting this personal, and that Mama does indeed know best when it comes to this situation.
“His name will never come out of my mouth ever again.”