According to a shocking report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, Beilein reportedly referred to his players as thugs in a recent film session.
“After stunning his players in a film session on Wednesday with a verbal suggestion that they were no longer playing ‘like a bunch of thugs,’ Cleveland Cavaliers coach John Beilein later reached out to players individually to insist he had instead meant to use the word ‘slugs,'” Wojnarowski wrote.
“Delivering the term thugs onto a group of largely young African-American men carries obvious racial connotations, and Beilein acknowledged to ESPN in a telephone conversation on Wednesday night that he understood that.”
Following the incident, Cavs players were shocked, Wojnarowksi reported.
“The Cavaliers players left the room initially stunned and were increasingly disturbed as they dispersed out of the meeting, league sources said,” he wrote.
“Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman was alerted to the issue in the aftermath of the meeting and reached out to Beilein for clarification later on Wednesday. Soon after, Beilein said he started to contact his players individually to clarify his words and meaning.”
In a statement, Beilein attempted to explain his actions.
“I didn’t realize that I had said the word ‘thugs,’ but my staff told me later I did and so I must have said it,” Beilein told ESPN on Wednesday night. “I meant to say slugs, as in slow moving. We weren’t playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That’s what I was trying to say. I’ve already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand.”
It’s up to debate whether or not he is being truthful in his defense or simply trying to cover his tracks.
Either way, one thing is for certain: If his job wasn’t already in jeopardy in Cleveland, it may very well be now.