Cappie Pondexter is an amazing basketball player. I cheer for her and Team USA during the Summer Olympics. She always had me on the edge of my seat when the Pheonix Mercury came to town – with Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor she was part of a triple threat to my beloved New York Liberty. Last year, when she signed to play for the Liberty, I was excited. And she didn’t disappoint – averaging over 21 points per game it seemed at times she was carrying the whole team on her shoulders.
I follow a lot of the players in the league on Twitter. They’re very unfiltered and often interesting to read even when not tweeting about basketball. Pondexter’s tweets frequently mention God. However, I was not looking at my Twitter feed when she tweeted this in the wake of the horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan:
So I think a lot rt! I knw it’s tragic n God makes no mistakes but what if japan was bout to do some bad things 2 another country?
u just never knw! They did pearl harbor so u can’t expect anything less
And then to a follower who was arguing with her:
r u jap?
There was a controversy on WNBA message boards almost immediately. Most condemning her for using a slur and saying something so ignorant. The media started to pay attention when she made a apologized, it was picked up by ESPN and The New York Times.
I wanna apologize to anyone I may hurt or offended during this tragic time. I didn’t realize that my words could be interpreted in the manner which they were. People that knw me would tell u 1st hand I’m a very spiritual person and believe that everything, even disasters happen 4 a reason and that God will shouldn’t be questioned but this is a very sensitive subject at a very tragic time and I shouldn’t even have given a reason for the choice of words I used.
I think it’s really awful that she would use an anti-Japanese slur, and it seems even worse at this time when so many Japanese people are in danger of losing their lives. Sportswriter Michelle Vopel explained the racism inherent in her comments and the irony of a Rutgers alum saying something so insensitive.
But I want to focus on something else in her tweet that the mainstream media – or at least ESPN, NYT, WNBA, etc seem to be ignoring. It’s what she said about “God makes no mistakes” and her insistence that everything that happens is caused by God, who has a reason, that we might not know or understand.
Why is it that when she says this about a devastating natural disaster that kills thousands of people, there is outrage, but when she (or anyone else) says that God caused something as trivial as the outcome of a basketball game (and she’s not the only one) why do people just nod and accept it without questioning? Because if God influences basketball games, then obviously God must also decide who gets struck with earthquakes.
And Cappie Pondexter herself is not consistent in her own beliefs. Before she issued her apology, she said:
So funny the moment something is taken totally out of context, taking negatively the whole world wanna retweet n talk! Let’s talk bout Taking action n donating money to help! Why we as people focus on the negative? I’m not a negative person by me stating my opinion That will never change! I pray for people countries everyday not just when something tragic happens!
So… the almighty God has decided to kill thousands of people in Japan with an earthquake, tsunami and debilitating nuclear radiation, and our first instinct should be to stay positive, take action, donate money to help and pray for them. That makes no sense. If she really believed that God was trying to torture the people of Japan to death, she would not want to help them. Why should she want to interfere with the will of God? And if it’s a good thing to help them, then why would she believe that God caused the earthquake in the first place.
Taken a step further, why should Pondexter even show up for practice? Won’t God decide who is going to win or lose anyway? How could her efforts possibly matter?
That no one in the media ever points this out is a shocking example of the privilege religious people, especially Christians have in the United States. As a former Catholic and current Unitarian Universalist, I had noticed this, but never to the extent I have the past few days.
This has made me reexamine something I hadn’t give much thought to. Lady Gaga’s current single, “Born This Way” is a celebration of humanity in all of our diverse ethnicities and sexualities. She sings the chorus:
I’m beautiful in my way
’cause god makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way
and I love it! It’s the deepest part of my philosophy that I have taken with me from Catholicism to Unitarian Universalism. We are all brothers and sisters. We all have inherent worth and dignity. And there are responsibilities – to God, to each other, to the universe that come with that.
But the same problem occurs. What about sociopaths? Or people with brain tumors that make them pedophiles? Or children born with birth defects so severe that they cannot live more than a few days? Are they mistakes?
When both Gaga and Pondexter assure me that “God makes no mistakes,” I have to wonder – does that mean anything at all?