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Thursday, January 16
Updated: January 18, 2:42 AM ET
Shaq should've thought before he spoke

By Bill Walton
Special to

How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?

Although the comments have been reported before, the recent release of recordings of Shaquille O'Neal mocking, criticizing and generally disrespecting Yao Ming are startling.

Shaquille O'Neal
Being bigger than the other kids while growing up, Shaq knows what it's like to be different.
How disappointing for Shaq -- he should know better. He's the leader of the NBA and you expect more from him. Can you imagine Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic, Hakeem or David Robinson saying anything like this?

We constantly hear from people like Shaq that they want to be respected. Well, to get respect, you must give respect. We live in a world and society where diversity needs to be encouraged not discouraged. If Shaq were your 10-year-old child, what would you do or say to him after making such comments?

What if Yao Ming had said something about Shaq's ethnicity? You can imagine the outcry and it would be justified. But it has to cut both ways. Where is Jessie Jackson? Where is Al Sharpton? Where is Johnnie Cochran?

Yao Ming has far too much class to get involved in this nonsense but you know it has to hurt. With the way he has been mistreated, manhandled and butchered by so many for simply coming here to play basketball -- something he was asked to do -- he must be asking himself, "What is going on here?"

There is no place in our world for Shaq's intolerance and insensitivity. And this from a man who has as much experience and knowledge in dealing with the media as anyone alive today. Shaq is a man who has obviously been teased and made fun of a lot in his life because he is visually different from what some consider the "norm." He can't like it when it happens to him -- so why this?

And as far as Shaq's 'apology' is concerned, well, I don't get it when someone says, 'IF I offended anyone, I'm sorry.' That tactic really worked well for Trent Lott.

If that is what he is saying publicly ... then what can he be thinking privately?

And as far as Shaq's "apology" is concerned, well, I don't get it when someone says, "IF I offended anyone, I'm sorry." That tactic really worked well for Trent Lott.

But is this any worse than what the Miami Heat did when Yao Ming came to play in South Florida and the Heat -- as a promotion -- handed out fortune cookies? You can never ignore or rank levels of intolerance of any nature.

Just remember the quote on the wall at the Holocaust Museum in our Washington, D.C. that tells the story of the people who didn't complain or object to the mistreatment of others. Their final lament was "That when they finally came for me, there was nobody left to complain."

How many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn't see?

Bill Walton, who is an NBA analyst for ESPN, is a regular contributor to

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