HAWKS co-owner James Spenceley has labelled a social media post involving club general manager Kim Welch dressed in “blackface” as “inexcusable”, but denied there was any offensive intent involved.
Spenceley said Welsh has spoken to the Illawarra playing group on Thursday morning, addressing a photo where he is dressed in an NBA playing singlet of Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry with his face painted black.
The photo, taken “about four years ago” was tagged on a Facebook post in August, 2014, before Welch took over as the Hawks boss.
It was posted on Twitter on Wednesday night, causing a social media backlash involving Hawks and NBL fans.
“It’s certainly inexcusable, that’s clear,” Spenceley said.
“But you have to look at the intent of it and Kim has certainly not had any intention to offend anyone.
“It was taken about four years ago, when Kim’s a young guy who has made a mistake.
“While it’s certainly not something anyone should do, I’ve worked closely with Kim since becoming involved with the club and I can defend his character and how hard he works for the club.
“He loves basketball and he has gone to a party as Steph Curry without realising the implications of his actions.”
Spenceley said he did not expect to take any further action against Welch.
The Hawks have African American players Marvelle Harris and Michael Holyfield as imports on their rosters this year, as well as assistant coach Eric Cooks.
Dressing in blackface carries racial implications, particularly in American culture, dating back to 19th century theatre involving non-black actors performing stereotypical African American roles.
There have been a number of “blackface” controversies in Australia in recent times, including Liz Cambage – whose father is Nigerian – being “shocked and disturbed” at Opals teammate Alice Kunek dressing up as Kanye West.
After a young fan dressed up as Nic Naitanui, the AFL star said "it's a shame racism coexists in an environment where our children should be nurtured not tortured because they are unaware of the painful historical significance 'blackface' has had previously on the oppressed".
Illawarra are third on the NBL ladder at 7-7, clawing their way back from last after early season losses.
The Mercury has sought comment from Welch and the NBL.
- This article first appeared on the egional