mike wise washington post

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Last week, before the second round game of the NBA Playoffs between the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers, Washington Post columnist Mike Wise—a man who has been covering the NBA for both the Post and New York Times since the mid-1990s—began tweeting about his dislike for the "gangsta rap" being played in the Pacers' locker room. "Pacers' pre-game locker room is pounding gangsta rap with Tiger and the Game," he tweeted. "Apparently the n-bomb debate is not happening in Indiana." A predictable wave of negativity quickly resulted, with Wise receiving a number of insulting tweets centered around his own whiteness, turning him into, as he put it, "Clint Eastwood, 'Get off my lawn.'"

The wave of tweets prompted a response from Wise six minutes later, which read, "Oh, my bad, dawgs. It's TYGA and The Game. And it's straight-up filthy, like where some guys on the team look uncomfortable listening." His tweets began to go viral—he attempted to clarify with one more three minutes later—and the headlines across the Internet followed the Old-White-Guy-Doesn't-Understand-Rap-Music narrative that had quickly become the hive mind on Twitter. In an attempt to clarify his thoughts—and to question his suggestion that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver get involved in eradicating rap music from NBA locker rooms—XXL spoke to Wise on the phone to attempt to have this discussion in a forum that's a little more open to elaboration than Twitter. —Dan Rys

Ed. Note: Wise wrote a column about the situation for the Post on Sunday, which can be found here.

XXL: What happened that day?
Mike Wise: I was in the Pacers' locker room and the music was blaring; one player was in one corner, there were a couple other players and reporters milling around.

Was the locker room open to the public?
There's media availability before every game where they allow reporters in for, I think it's a 30 to 45 minute window.

Your issue with the music was with the lyrics?
Yeah. In many locker rooms it's too loud, too, where you can't ask questions or have a conversation with somebody because it gets too loud. But yeah, it was more the lyrics.

Was this an isolated thing for you? Hip-hop and the NBA, specifically, have always had a very close relationship.
No; I've covered the NBA since the mid-90s. I first covered them with the Nets for the New York Times, then I covered the Knicks for a couple years, then I was the NBA columnist, so I'm very familiar with that relationship, and I saw the marriage of the NBA to hip-hop culture probably in the mid-90s. I think at that point I was in my mid-30s—and I wrote this in a column—and the Knicks would come out to [The Notorious B.I.G.'s] "Mo Money, Mo Problems," and it was [Charles] Oakley would be dancing in the layup line; it was hilarious. And everybody would play Biggie or something, maybe even more hardcore, in the locker room.

At the time it was almost a rite of passage; if you understood the message or maybe a lyric that a player liked or felt connected to, all of a sudden you were connected to that person, and it was almost like, "Oh this is cool, I'm in the sanctuary, I'm down with the fellas," you know? And you know, you get older, you listen to the words, and you realize we live in a little more, hopefully, time of elevated consciousness when it comes to stuff. And you start hearing it differently, and you go, "Well, hold on, that's N-bomb this, N-Bomb that, that's B-s and hoes," and it was just like, wow, that's not how I remember it. [Laughs]

What was it about this one incident that made you start tweeting about it?
I probably could have tweeted about it whenever in various locker rooms two and three years ago, it just never dawned on me. One of the things that upset me about the characterization of my tweets and how I felt about it was it was like selectively edited. And it was omitted that there was also a young woman in there and you could tell she was offended by it, and she looked at one of the players, and he's putting his hands up like, "Uh, I don't know what to say, I didn't put it on." And she's looking at me. So I wasn't the only person in there going, "Man, this is pretty hardcore."