Before Monday's home game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Sacramento Kings were set to kick off their celebration of Lunar New Year by distributing special T-shirts to fans in attendance at Sleep Train Arena ahead of the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Monkey on Feb. 8:
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— James Ham (@James_Ham) February 2, 2016
But before fans could enter the gym and snag their swag, the shirts were removed:
... evidently at the behest of Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, according to former NBA player and Milwaukee Bucks color commentator Marques Johnson:
I walk into the building and DeMarcus Cousins calls me over to an animated discussion he's having with Kings operations people. He ask me, "Olskool, what you think about this T Shirt? Told him a little insensitive on 1st day of Black History Month". They pulled the shirts...
Good move Kings. Year of Monkey Tees on 1 st day of Black History Month not a good look. Thanks DeMarcus... pic.twitter.com/wvqkdgdr7r
— Marques Johnson (@olskool888) February 2, 2016
Players and coaches wore commemorative shirts to celebrate the first day of Black History Month, while the "Year of the Monkey" shirts disappeared from sight. From Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee:
“We all need a lesson in sensitivity,” Kings president Chris Granger said. “In an effort to celebrate Chinese New Year, we had some concerns about the T-shirt giveaway, so we pulled them all before the doors opened. Certainly we don’t want to offend anybody, and we acted as soon as we heard the concern.”
Center DeMarcus Cousins was one of the first people to raise concern with team officials, and soon thereafter, the shirts were collected.
The Kings did continue with the rest of their planned Lunar New Year festivities, including player announcements in Mandarin:
But the shirts remained shelved, in a decision that has caused, and surely will continue to cause, spirited discussion of what constitutes insensitivity within and among the NBA world's different constituencies. The Kings will be in the midst of a four-game road trip when Lunar New Year officially begins next Monday; it remains to be seen whether the free-shirt giveaway will be rescheduled at any point.
Playing without Cousins, who was sidelined by a sprained left ankle, the Kings topped the Bucks, 111-104, thanks to a surprisingly sharp shooting night from point guard Rajon Rondo and 32 points from forward Rudy Gay. Sacramento now sits at 21-27, 1 1/2 games out of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
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