Sport Los Angeles Sparks GM Penny Toler used racial slur in playoff tirade
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The Los Angeles Sparks finished atop the Western Conference with a 22-12 regular-season record. Their season ended unceremoniously in the second round at the hands of the Connecticut Sun, who swept the Sparks out of the postseason in three games.
In Sunday's Game 3, coach Derek Fisher had the entire starting five, including key players Candace Parker, Alana Beard and Nneka Ogwumike on the bench as the third quarter ended and the game unraveled. The decision,, may have had to do with a postgame tirade from general manager Penny Toler following Game 2.
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ESPN reported that Toler entered the Sparks' locker room after the loss on Sept. 19 and began an obscenity-laced speech that included racial slurs. Toler did not dispute the use of the "N-word" during the tirade.
"By no means did I call my players the N-word," Toler told ESPN. "I'm not saying that I couldn't have used it in a context. But it wasn't directed at any of my players.
"It's unfortunate I used that word. I shouldn't. Nobody should. ... But you know, like I said, I'm not here to defend word by word by word what I said. I know some of the words that I'm being accused of are embellished. Did I give a speech that I hoped would get our team going? Yes.
"I think that this whole conversation has been taken out of context because when we lose, emotions are running high and, unfortunately and obviously, some people feel some type of way."
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One player told ESPN: "You can't say that in 2019."
Some players believed Fisher made the decision to bench the starters because of the tension stemming from Toler — Toler and Fisher argued the benchings were meant to spark the team, rather than be punitive.
Additionally, Toler was adamant the slur was not directed at anyone in specific.
"I didn't mean to offend anyone," Toler, who scored the first basket in WNBA history and has been in her current position for 20 years, told ESPN. "But my point is, I was saying what I was thinking. And I have the right to do that as the GM. I've been the GM for 20 years and this is the first time something like this has occurred. Clearly, some people were offended. That wasn't the message I was going for, obviously. And that clearly is not the reason we lost Game 3."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
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