Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell was a member of the great Celtics’ teams from the 1980s. The 6’8” forward was a first round draft pick in 1977, after leading his Charlotte University to its improbable run of upsets during that spring’s NCAA tournament.
While he was a working class player, content to play defense and rebound, as he was to score, he became known as a clutch playoff performer, winning the NBA’s MVP award for the 1981 finals, when the Celt beat the Moses Malone-led Houston Rockets.
“Max” was known as a colorful character during his eight years in Boston and in 2003, his number “31” was hoisted to the rafters, one of only 22 players in the franchise’s storied history to have that award bestowed upon them.
Maxwell and partner Sean Grande have been the Celtics’ radio team for the past nine years. With Maxwell, as analyst, providing insights from his playing days and occasional quirky observations and Grande’s exceptional skill as play-by-play counterpart, they form a quality team with an obvious chemistry.
On Monday night, Maxwell, as he often does, took exception to a call made against a Boston player. While this in and of itself wasn’t a big deal—the officiating in the top pro league in the world, at best, is suspect. What created the resulting media firestorm was that Maxwell criticized Violet Palmer, a woman of color and an NBA official, with some revealing phraseology.
Here is a paraphrase (from Wikipedia) of Maxwell’s comments about Palmer, in context of Monday’s game:
After a play where Maxwell thought a foul should have been called on a Houston player, he said that Palmer should "go back to the kitchen." He then added, "Go in there and make me some bacon and eggs, would you?".
Supposedly, this was part of Maxwell's mocking Tommy Heinsohn’s (Maxwell’s TV counterpart on FSNE) criticism of referees. Secondly, the sentence after the comment, Maxwell praised Palmer, saying she was doing an excellent job officiating. Maxwell apologized before the Celtics' next game by saying "If I said anything that might have been insensitive or sexist in any way, then I apologize because she worked extremely hard to get where she is now, end of quote."
Maxwell has spent the better part of the week fending off criticism from a variety of sources, including the sports talk fraternity, which its interesting in itself, given that genre's less than flattering takes on the fairer sex.
You see, the world of pro sports and sports in general, is a world where sexism, racism, and outright misogyny is often worn as a badge of honor. In fact, athletics is a bastion of old-school views, particularly towards women, homosexuals and anything smacking of progressivism. While there are certainly exceptions, by-and-large, athletics and enlightened views about the world rarely go hand-in-hand.
Having spent more than my fair share of time in and around sports locker rooms as a player, coach and even journalist, these are not places known for their scintillating conversation and liberal thoughts about society.
Some of my most frustrating moments discussing politics, or culture have come in conversations with young college players that I’ve coached over the past few summers. While there have been exceptions, the general lack of respect that many young males (and older males) have indicated they have for women, homeless people, people of color, gay people and others in conversations that I was privy to, is downright depressing.
I still remember playing semi-pro baseball and hearing a former teammate boast about some of his sexual exploits in college, as a fraternity member, some 10 years earlier at a party, where teammates had drilled a hole in the wall and watched him and others “get it on” with drunk co-eds. Believe me when I tell you, this is no isolated incident, as I could tell you other “horror” stories from my days at the University of Maine. If you're still having doubts, just think Duke lacrosse (a case emblematic of the culture and mindset prevalent in the athletic world).
What was troubling to me was how this person, now a father, took such great relish in telling this story, oblivious to the indignity visited on these women. Oh, I know, I’ve heard it before—because they were drinking, at a frat party and "coming on" to the athletes, they asked for it—yeah right!
By making this comment, regardless of his apology, “Cornbread” was just giving y'all a peek into just how “enlightened” certain elements of the male species are, even in 2007.