Cleanthony Early was shot yesterday.
In cold blood, a criminal took his property and shot him in the knee. This has jeopardised his career, the financial well-being of his family, as well as no doubt causing him great physical and mental pain. He was not engaging in risky behaviour (a la Monta Ellis’ motorcycle accident), nor was he breaking any law or even team rules. He was shot in cold blood by criminals who should feel the full force of the New York justice system.
This is a tragedy. And it was not his fault.
Instead of sympathy though, a large segment of New York Knicks fans have complained that Early did something wrong. That he shouldn’t have been out at 4.30am. That he shouldn’t have gone to a strip club. Instead of clamouring for the New York Police to track down these criminals, they’re demanding Derek Fisher take disciplinary action against a man who, and let’s remember this, was shot in the knee for no reason.
Those claiming that Early shouldn’t have been out at 4.30am clearly do not watch NBA games. Knicks home games usually start around 8pm. If Anthony gets away from work by midnight he’s probably done well. I’m not sure about the rest of you but I can’t remember the last time I was in bed within an hour of finishing work. Being out at 4.30am is what you would expect from someone whose work day goes from 2pm to midnight. As far as we know Early stuck around at MSG until 2am to get some extra work in, and then took his partner out for a drink after work. Again. Normal behaviour. Don’t blame him because his work day starts and finishes later than yours.
He was shot going home after a night out with his partner in which they behaved legally and safely. He did not drink and drive. He did not instigate an altercation. He behaved. And he may pay with his career.
More importantly, the claim that Early should not have been at the strip club is the worst hypocrisy. There is a reason they call it adult entertainment. It’s legal and natural for young men to attend such a venue. Did he do anything inappropriate while he was there? There are no reports of this. Was he on the stage ‘making it rain’ a la Pacman Jones? Again there were no reports of this. Not that it would be any business of ours, but Early was even there with his girlfriend, and so there can’t even be any moralistic hand-wringing. And the next man I meet that has never been to a strip club will be the first.
Was Thabo Sefalosha in the wrong place when his leg was broken by police officers last year? No. He was the victim of what is considered at best a controversial approach by police officers. He was out at 4.30am too. The only difference between Sefalosha and Early’s incidents is that the blame in this event is much clearer
Not that it should need to be pointed out, but should Early be disciplined for going to a strip club, NBA Players Union Head Michele Roberts would tear the Knicks apart. Punishing him for behaving legally? For being shot? Any discipline would be challenged and defeated. Further it would create animosity between Fisher and the team, and potentially make the Knicks less desirable as a free agent venue. So not only is it pointless. It is self-defeating.
Blaming Early for being shot reveals the worst of sports fan – hypocrisy, double standards and jealously. Knicks players have shown their support for Early. Opposition players have shown support. This is more than most fans.
Cleanthony Early was shot yesterday. And it was a tragedy. And it was not his fault.