May 26, 2021  Members Only

Chicago Sky files complaint over alleged racial slur

Coach James Wade says he was referred to as 'your boy" by WNBA ref

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CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 11: WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert presents Head Coach James Wade of the Chicago Sky with the WNBA Coach of the Year Award before the game against the Phoenix Mercury during Round One of the WNBA Playoffs on September 11, 2019 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo via WNBA Content Networrk)

There was an official moment of silence among the 1,004 fans gathered at Wintrust Arena on Tuesday night, before the Chicago Sky and Atlanta Dream took to the court, to mark the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death.

According to several players, the moment was poignant, and marked a milestone in the social justice movement in this country.

But an incident Sky coach James Wade viewed as disrespectful at best spoiled that feeling by the end of the evening for Chicago.

In postgame remarks, Wade, was responding to a question about the refereeing of the Chicago Sky’s 90-83 loss to the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday night.

And then a dam seemed to break inside of him.

Wade said he always encouraged his players to be professional even if others are not.

“Can you expand on that?” the reporter asked.

Here was his answer:

“I’m a grown man. I have a family and a team and I have a responsibility,” Wade said “When someone tells one of my players ‘hey explain to your boy,’ I take that personal.”

“That’s what I’ve been dealing with. That’s how people see me.”

According to the Harvard Law & Policy Review, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recognized in 2011 that the use of the word ‘boy’ to refer to black employees is sufficient evidence of racism. 

After admonishing the media not to feel sorry for him, he added:

“I don’t know how good of a coach I can be, or how effective I can be if you look at the game and see how it is,” Wade said. “I’m not going to try and victimize anything but I take it personal. It’s personal. We don’t have any margin for error.

The players work hard. When they come out and try to do the right things and they get penalized for what colors you have on, then I think it’s ridiculous.”

A league source confirmed to The Next that the official involved in the incident with Wade was Isaac Barnett, whose LinkedIn page indicates he’s been a referee with the WNBA since 2016.

Barnett and his brother Jacob, who are of Korean descent and referee in the WNBA and G Leagues, were mentioned in an April 16, 2021 New York Times article about the racial slurs experienced by Asian-American referees in the NBA.

The Next has reached out to the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA) for comment.

The Sun-Times reported that Diamond DeShields and other players heard what the official said, and Wade saw the exchange take place on the court, though none mentioned the exact time or which call was in question.

Following this exchange, Wade and the Sky filed an official complaint with the WNBA office on Wednesday morning.

The Next has also reached out to the league for comment. It is customary for the league not to comment during investigations, and to conduct an investigation in instances such as these.

The incident overshadowed a night that showcased the best and worst of the Sky’s season.

While the Atlanta Dream’s aggressiveness was indicated as the issue that stymied many comeback attempts, the game also featured Courtney Vandersloot surpassing wife Allie Quigley for the most career points in Chicago Sky team history, with 3,002 points.

Kahleah Copper led the way for the Sky and notched 21 points on 6-11 shooting from the field. It’s her second consecutive game with double-digit points.

After making her debut in the Sky’s home opener, Australian rookie Shyla Heal scored her first career points in the second quarter, going 2-for-2 from the free throw line, to cut the Sky’s first-half deficit to 21-18.

The Sky (2-2) continues its homestand with the first of two games against the Los Angeles Sparks (0-2) on Friday, May 28. 

Written by Alison Moran-Powers

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