A case study on the cancel culture

I’ve never met nor heard of John Focke.

He’s the radio voice of the Charlotte Hornets, which is interesting to me only because, many many moons ago, I covered the Hornets as a young sports writer in Gastonia, N.C

But I stumbled across Focke in the ESPN top story scroll.

My first thought was: Oh boy, another exposed racist. One signal that the broadcaster must be guilty is that “mistyped” was put in quotations, signaling that his claim is bogus.

So, I go read the story.

The guy was tweeting about the Nuggets-Jazz game (Charlotte didn’t make the playoffs, so he’s providing Twitter commentary on other games) which he was watching.

Instead of typing Nuggets, he typed the N-word. He quickly deleted the tweet.

Hmmmm, I thought. Those words are at least a little similar in construction. So, I looked down at my keyboard.

It turns out that Nuggets and the plural of the N-Word have the exact same number of letters — seven.

It also turns out that only 2 of those 7 letters are different. And they both occur in the same place in the word — the “U” and the “T” in Nuggets are the second and sixth letters as are the “I” and “R” in that most offensive, racist N-word.

Now, let’s look at the keyboard.

Those two letters that are different are ADJACENT on the keyboard. And if Focke was typing on his phone, we know that proximity is even more problematic.

So here is my question:

What’s more likely, that Focke is a closet racist who tried to sneak the N-word in place of the word Nuggets creating a completely out-of-context slur that thousands would see, or that he mistyped two characters, adjacent on the keyboard, which resulted in him posting a slur which he immediately took down?

I did a very little research on Focke — I couldn’t find much because the first four pages of search results are now filled with the Nuggets tweet.

But I didn’t find these two recent tweets:

Does this look like the social media activity of a racist?

I can’t find any other evidence that he has done anything controversial.

Yet, he is suspended indefinitely by the Hornets and is being lit up on Twitter.

And ESPN coyly signals he is making excuses by saying he “mistyped” the word (test: read the ESPN headline without the quotations around “mistyped” and see if it reads any differently or less accurately).

So … maybe Focke is some secret closet racist who types the N-word so often that other words autocorrect to it. And I’m not being sarcastic with that sentence. I know nothing about this guy and I’m not vouching for him. He may, in fact, have typed the N-word often enough that it came up in some sort of autocorrect form.

But absent any other information the FAR more plausible explanation for this tweet is that he simply mistyped something that, by extremely unfortunate coincidence, happened to be a horrific slur (And I must say, it has been fascinating to see the Twitter warfare on this — in particular, the number of African Americans who have defended Focke).

Here are my points:

Before declaring this guy guilty of racism, can we at least be open to other possibilities?

Also, if this was just a typo, have we run out of real racism and racists to ferret out? I don’t think we’re even close. Wasting time on the Fockes of the world not only doesn’t help the cause, it sets it back. I know that Focke may be getting a taste of what it’s like to face discrimination and unfair treatment, but two wrongs have never made a right, and that’s no excuse for ruining a man who doesn’t deserve it, if that is what has happened here.

In fact, based on his tweets, this guy is an ALLY of the BLM movement! Why would anyone want to cancel an ally?

Maybe Focke will be found to have (OK, I can’t help it) Focked up in other ways. If so, cancel away.

But until something more substantial than two key strokes is proven, Focke is not cancel-worthy.

In the meantime, the fight for racial equality should continue, in earnest. One false cancel doesn’t mean there aren’t many hearts and minds to change.

EDIT: Since I’ve written this but before I posted it, Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman was suspended for using an anti-gay slur on the air.

This situation is everything the Focke situation wasn’t. Brennaman spoke the word in a clearly derogatory way. This wasn’t a slip of the tongue, it was intentional and clearly a window into Brennaman’s character. He should be suspended (and has been by the Reds) and I can’t come up with a reason why Reds fans should hear him call another game. That is, he should be fired.

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