Mark Cuban's provocative comments Wednesday about bigotry and his own internal biases drew immediate criticisms and charges of racism--but also a lot of praise and support for his honesty in addressing prejudice.
"If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it's late at night, I'm walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face--white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere--I'm walking back to the other side of the street."
He argued that recognizing such biases is the first step to solving them: "While we all have our prejudices and bigotries, we have to learn that it's an issue that we have to control," said Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
The comments drew an immediate furor online, especially after sports web site Bleacher Report linked to them with the initial headline "Cuban: 'I Know I'm a Bigot.' "
Cuban blasted the site on Twitter for its "lazy, irresponsible columns," and told the author of the article, "You owe me an apology for calling me a racist. I have my failings and I mentioned those in the interview. But a racist I am not."
Bleacher Report later changed its headline to "Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban: 'We All Have Our Prejudices and Bigotries.' "
On Thursday, many people rallied to Cuban's defense--especially those who watched him speak at the conference or who watched his full online video interview with the magazine.
Some GrowCo attendees told Inc. that they were initially uncomfortable with Cuban's remarks on-stage, but agreed with him once he explained what he meant.
"There's a variation of truth to that. He stated it ineloquently, but that's his truth, and it's not a racist truth," J.R. Garrett, the general counsel of Nashville design company LogoGarden and a black man, said on the sidelines of the conference Thursday morning.
"I think we all have that type of internal prejudices. . . I was offended at first, but not once he backtracked and explained it," said Elliott Holt, chief executive of the Nashville health information company Medi-Copy.
Holt, who is white and in an interracial relationship, added that Cuban's comments make sense in the context of the furor over fellow NBA mogul Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
"He likes expressing his opinion, and I think it was killing him that he couldn't express his opinion on the Sterling vote," Holt said Thursday.
GrowCo attendee Manny Rivas, online advertising director of Duluth, Minn., marketing agency aimClear, agreed that Cuban was being his trademark provocative self--but hardly offensive.
"I get what he was saying," said Rivas, who is Hispanic-American, before adding advice that Cuban regularly seems to enjoy ignoring: "I just think you've got to be careful."
In an email Thursday, Cuban declined to comment on the reactions to his remarks.