Lithuania is a wonderful country. The historic architecture, the beautiful scenery, the horribly racist basketball officials. Whaaaaa? Yeah, we have our fair share of bigoted nutjobs in this country, but they aren’t the head of a major sports organization.
(Humanitarian of the Year)
Looks like Valdas Garastas (pictured above) is going to be needing some of that diversity training. Garastas, the head of the Lithuanian basketball federation, is not too happy with the African-American players who have come to play in his country, and he’s not mincing words. He’s all apologetic now, but perhaps he should’ve realized that dropping n-bombs in the newspaper earlier this week might not turn out so well.
Ugly quotes after the jump.
According to the KHALEEJ TIMES, Garastas took issue with Loren Woods and Willie Deane, the two Americans playing for the team Zalgiris Kaunas. And when I say “took issue,” I mean it. Valdas wasn’t messing around with suggestion or innuendo, he was cutting right to the chase. Here’s what he said to local newspaper KAUNO DIETA:
‘I’d fire that n***** who plays for Zalgiris right away,’ Garastas was quoted as saying, without saying which player he meant.
‘The next generation (of Lithuanian players) isn’t being groomed. All they have playing are some black a**holes,’ he reportedly said.
The asterisks are my doing. The words were there in all their glory in the original.
Garastas has backtracked from his statements, but that’s not really the kind of thing that will just blow over. Although, maybe it will in Lithuania. For all I know, everyone there thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to say that. Here’s Garastas’ apology:
‘I offer my sincere apologies to the sporting community at Zalgiris Kaunas and to its players, as well as anyone who could have been hurt by my remarks,’ Garastas said in a statement issued by the federation.
‘My comments were inappropriate, injurious and unjustifiable,’ he said.
Basketball is the most popular sport in Lithuania, where the Olympic team is usually a medal contender. More and more Americans are choosing to play in Europe, and Garastas seems to be part of a group of Europeans who are worried that players from their countries will get pushed out of the top leagues in favor of American players. This, however, might not have been the best way to express that.
Woods, for what it’s worth, has been described as a guy with a lot of talent but a poor work ethic. Woods had several run-ins with Lute Olson during his days at Arizona, even being ordered out of practice and suspended from games for not giving full effort. He’s bounced around the NBA over the last six years. So maybe he isn’t the best torch-bearer for American basketball in Europe, but jeez, the dude doesn’t deserve to have that kind of crap hurled at him.