September has been a vicious month for wildly successful women who’ve been cheated on by their husbands, and this week is no exception. While roving athletes are frequent perpetrators of extramarital affairs, the NBA’s own Adulterer of the Day is raising questions from the public and fellow athletes alike. Plug your nose: It’s smelling a little fishy up in here.
According to an ESPN report that dropped late Wednesday night, unspecified “sources” say Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is likely facing a suspension for the entire 2022-2023 season for having engaged in a consensual relationship with a colleague. Having an intimate relationship with an employee is apparently considered a violation of the Celtics’ guidelines, and the organization is expected to release a formal announcement as early as Thursday. Udoka has reportedly been in a relationship with actor Nia Long since 2010, with whom he shares a child. Long and Udoka got engaged in 2015, but are not legally married.
The rumored suspension is one of the toughest ever handed down by the league or an NBA franchise—one ESPN says is “largely unprecedented for a sitting head coach” in the NBA. A regular season of basketball consists of 82 games. To give the rumored suspension some color, the league suspended player Gilbert Arenas 50 games for bringing a gun into the Wizards locker room in 2009, and Latrell Sprewell 68 games for choking and threatening to kill his head coach in 1997.
Men in positions of power—and especially men in the hyper-masculine realm of sports—exploiting their privilege to get sex is nothing new. Cheating sucks, but without excusing Udoka’s actions or minimizing the pain caused to Long and their family, whatever dalliance Udoka took part in sounds like a personal issue…not one for the league to solve. And the dominant opinion on NBA Twitter? This just “doesn’t add up.”
ESPN “Senior NBA Insider” Adrian Wojnarowski first dropped the news on Twitter Wednesday night, noting that the Celtics were looking at a “significant suspension” for an “unspecified violation of organizational guidelines.” This is extremely vague! Also, Wojnarowski appears to have photoshopped the announcement with his face and his Twitter handle, which is kooky-ass clown behavior for a reporter about to publicly disparage a long-term relationship! By the following morning, ESPN had updated its story to include details of the consensual intimate relationship.
At this point, everyone is losing their shit. Twitter users begin circulating the names and images of women employed by the Celtics who might be prominent enough to warrant such a harsh punishment, which is certainly unfair to those women who did not have sex with him. Media figures also raised questions about why the leaker, presumably within the organization, would make such vague information public at all, if the organization didn’t plan on firing Udoka outright.
Of course, there’s mass public outrage aimed at Udoka for fucking with Long. But it seems making this sensitive information public caused more harm than good—mainly to the women employed by the Celtics who are now being implicated and to Udoka’s family.
One athlete expressed outrage that there’s more eyeballs on a consensual cheating scandal than on Brett Favre, the storied former NFL quarterback who misused millions in Mississippi welfare funds to create a new volleyball arena at his daughter’s university. But the stranger and more approximate comparison is to one Robert Sarver, the former owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. The NBA banned Sarver for one year and handed down a $10 million fine after a league investigation revealed the owner had regularly used the N-word and made “sex-related comments” towards women employees. Sarver had, for years, proven that he lacked basic respect for marginalized communities, including the players on his bankroll, while Udoka displayed a pretty common but nonetheless harmful transgression.
The truly bizarre unfolding of this story is reason to wonder if Udoka did more than just cheat. Either way, Nia Long deserves better than this haphazard breaking news item.