Matt Barnes: Epithet OK in context

Updated: November 15, 2013, 6:27 PM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Clippers forward Matt Barnes said Friday he will continue using a racial epithet he asserts has become commonplace in today's culture, two days after using the word on Twitter, for which he apologized and was fined by the NBA.

Barnes, speaking to reporters before Friday's practice, attempted to justify use of the N-word, saying the meaning of it can be derived solely by the context in which it is used.

"The word I used is a word that's used on the court, used in the locker room, used amongst my friends and family; it's a regular word to me," Barnes said. "I think my mistake was using it in a social manner, which I regret and I apologize for it. But you guys have to get used to it."

After Barnes was ejected from Wednesday's game, he tweeted, "I love my teammates like family, but I'm DONE standing up for these n---as! All this s--- does is cost me money. …"

The tweet was later deleted.

"If you look at the particular way I said it, kids are seeing that through music, through their favorite artists, and probably some of their favorite movies and even on TV now," Barnes said Friday. "The word is not necessarily a racial slur. Everyone is trying to paint it like I made some kind of hate crime or something. It's a word that I guarantee you will be used out here on the court today. It's a word that I've already heard in the locker room. It's not as big a deal as people are trying to make it.

"My mistake was making it in a social manner in the platform I used it on."

On Thursday, the NBA fined Barnes $25,000 for failing to leave the court in a timely manner and using inappropriate language on Twitter.

"This is a new day and age, and for my generation, that's a very common word," Barnes said. "You hear it on the radio, you hear it in movies, you hear it on TV. It is what it is. It was never intended for any person on the team."

Barnes said he uses the word with friends and family and that it was even used by his teammates before practice started Friday.

Pressed about using the word and whether he would continue to do so, Barnes stressed that the way it is said and spelled makes a big difference.

"I think the way it's said makes people cringe," Barnes said. "I think if you put an -er at the end, that makes people cringe, but if there's an -a at the end, that's like people saying 'bro.' That's just how we address people now. That's how we address our friends. That's how we talk. That's how my wife talks. That's how my family talks. People talk that way now. I think if you put the -er on it, it's offensive, and if you have an -a on it, it's more slang."

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he doesn't like or use the word but doesn't have a rule against his players using it and understands it's commonly used among players.

"There is a new generation, but I don't know about an acceptance," Rivers said. "That's fine. I don't like the word, but that's just me. I don't have a rule on certain words. I swear. I say all kinds of things. It makes some people uncomfortable, it doesn't make others uncomfortable, and that's the way it is."

Barnes and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka were ejected with 6.2 seconds left in the second quarter of Wednesday's game after Ibaka and Clippers forward Blake Griffin got tangled up as Griffin tried to put up a shot.

It looked like Ibaka had pushed Griffin, and Barnes shoved Ibaka hard in the chest. Players from both teams had to restrain Barnes and Ibaka from each other as Ibaka cocked his right fist as if to throw a punch while Barnes continued jawing with him. Ibaka and Barnes were ejected while Griffin was assessed a technical foul.

Many reports included speculation Barnes was directing his anger at Griffin, but Barnes and Griffin both said Friday that wasn't the case.

"That's very inaccurate," Barnes said. "My teammates know I have their back. They have my back. The coaching staff has my back, and the organization has my back. I think the media was trying to dig too deep into something that wasn't there. As soon as the game was over, I got calls from eight or nine of my teammates and texts from the rest of them. Everybody on this team is tight and united."

Griffin said he spoke with Barnes, didn't feel the tweet was intended for him and wanted to move past the issue when asked about it Friday.

"Matt apologized for whatever it was that he said, and we're going to move on," Griffin said. "It's not something we're going to dwell on. We have games to win. As far as I'm concerned, it's in the rearview mirror and I'm not looking back."

Barnes said he realized he made a mistake shortly after he sent the tweet and was driving home when he heard from his agents and some friends.

"Emotion takes over, and you do and say things that you don't mean," Barnes said. "I realized the particular word I used was probably going to be blown out of proportion. I got a text from my agent and a text from couple of other people saying you need to take that down, and I was already in the process of doing that.

"That was my biggest mistake. It was all out of emotion and frustration and out of the fact that Serge has history with this team. We don't like him, and he doesn't like us. I should never have pushed him, but the fact that I pushed him doesn't warrant an ejection. If Chris [Paul] would have pushed him, would that have been an ejection? If [Kevin Durant] had pushed him, would that have been an ejection? You could answer that yourselves."

Last season, Ibaka hit Griffin below the waist, and the two had to be separated.

Ibaka wasn't ejected or suspended but was fined $25,000 after the incident.

Barnes has been suspended four times since 2008 for on-court incidents. He has also been fined a number of times. His latest suspension came in February when he received a one-game ban for striking then-Minnesota Timberwolves center Greg Stiemsma in the neck.

Barnes said he won't change the way he plays moving forward but won't be so quick to get involved in a scuffle next time.

"As long as it doesn't get out of hand," Barnes said, "I'm going to stand and watch."

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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