Former Houston Rockets guard Vernon Maxwell used to be known for both his timely 3-pointers and his untimely outbursts of uncontrolled rage, earning the nickname “Mad Max” for his propensity to lose his mind and go off on opponents, referees, and fans who annoyed him — including a 1995 incident when went into the stands at a game and physically attacked a fan.
These days, he’s known for directing his acerbic, acid-tongued, vitriolic and often hilarious wit at but a single target — the state of Utah.
The pinned tweet on his Twitter page, from four years ago, was a tongue-in-cheek “apology” for previous insults directed toward the Beehive State: “I’d like 2 apologize Jazz fans that were offended by my tweets. If I knew u guys had internet in Utah I would’ve never made those tweets.”
Indeed, hardly a day goes by when he’s not making some joke or comment at Utah’s expense. However, one tweet he fired off on Monday morning has some people suggesting he’s gone too far.
A series of shootings took place last Tuesday in Atlanta, in which eight people were killed, including six women of Asian descent. Meanwhile, the The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino reported a 149% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in large cities across the United States in 2020.
In recent days, Maxwell has referenced such events. On Sunday, he tweeted an earnest and apparently heartfelt entreaty for people to halt the ongoing trend of anti-Asian crime: “Y’all quit doing that dumb sh!t and leave our Asian brothers and sisters alone. #stopAsianhate”
On Monday morning, though, his tone was different: “Stop the hate on Asians, continue to hate Utah instead,” he tweeted, following by a smiley-face emoji.
More harmless trolling? Or an ill-conceived joke that had the unfortunate effect of diminishing a bit of the impact of an actual hate crime by conflating it with his long-running humorous-if-genuine distaste for Utah?
The suggestion that people substitute one kind of hate for another — even facetiously — seems counterproductive at best and potentially dangerous at worst.
While the vast majority of people responding to Maxwell’s tweet seemed to find humor in his latest anti-Utah message, others said this particular one was perhaps tone-deaf.
“The best way to stop hate is to pass it on to someone else. SMH,” wrote one person.
“Hate is overrated. Refer to Dr. King on that one,” wrote another.
“Hold up... did you just try to leverage violence against Asian-Americans for clout?” added a third.
For what it’s worth, Maxwell claims to have ample legitimate reason to talk some smack about the state.
Back on Feb. 26, he quote-tweeted an ESPN story about the NBA conducting an investigation into former Utah Jazz player Elijah Millsap’s claim that then-general Manager Dennis Lindsey made a racist comment toward him several years ago; Maxwell added: “You farm animals from Utah like to say y’all livin rent free in my head & it’s true. Each time I played there for 13 seasons I was insulted, called racial slurs, got spat on. Threaten my kids lives. So yea rent free. It’s the worst place in the world to play at.” He concluded his tweet with a middle-finger emoji.
He’s since elaborated: “A few nice people reached out 2me 2apologize on behalf of Utah 4 their treatment of visiting NBA players & a bunch weren’t so nice. I wasn’t the model citizen back then & there R things I could’ve done better but we live & learn. Unfortunately not much has changed wit Jazz fans.”
Earlier in February, Maxwell also quote-tweeted a story about a charter school in Utah allowing parents to opt their children out of a Black History Month curriculum, adding the comment: “Need I say more?”
His interactions with Utah fans some three decades ago now provide fodder for the bulk of his Twitter material:
• “Did You Know Fact Of The Day: In Utah instead of screaming ‘Kobe’ when shooting the ball, the little hillbillies like to yell ‘Ostertag’”
• “I had a fkn blast going down memory lane with @bomani_jones. Be sure you check it out on Spotify. Let your Utah people know it will be released on cassette tape for their listening pleasure next week at Sam Goody.”
• “My son recently showed me how to block people on here & man I feel Ike The Dream of Twitter! Yes I lost 10k followers (the reading population of Utah) but I’m more about eliminating negativity from my life these days. Anyone writing anything offensive will be blocked. #mellowmax”
Of course, Maxwell is not alone in being a Black NBA player to have had run-ins with residents of Utah. Back in March of 2019, then-Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook got into a heated exchange with a Jazz fan during a game. The fan was subsequently issued a lifetime ban by the team after determining he directed racially-tinged comments at Westbrook. Then, after a video surfaced of another fan repeatedly calling Westbrook “boy” during the teams’ 2018 playoff series, the Jazz issued a retroactive lifetime ban to that fan as well.