O’Neal is tuned out by sheriff

Times Staff Writer

Apparently, the Maricopa County Police Department can do without Shaq.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio wants Shaquille O’Neal to return his special deputy sheriff’s badges to the Arizona county because of profanity and a racially derogatory word the Phoenix Suns center used while mocking Kobe Bryant in a freestyle rap video that surfaced Monday on the Internet.

“I do believe in free speech, but I don’t believe that in law enforcement to use this type of language is proper,” Arpaio said. “We set an example, a moral, ethical example and I would like to think that basketball players and all athletes should be setting a positive attitude for our young people.”

The two-minute video, originally posted on, features O’Neal saying, among other things, that “Kobe couldn’t do without me,” referring to Bryant and the Lakers’ recent loss to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, some six years after the Lakers ended a run of three straight titles with O’Neal on the team.


O’Neal also posed a profane question to Bryant multiple times, and used a racial slur.

“He has some type of representation of this office,” Arpaio said. “I just want my badges back. I don’t want anybody to say that he has my badges and I condone this type of activity.”

After the video surfaced O’Neal told that the rap was “all done in fun.”

But his lyrical stylings didn’t sit well with the no-nonsense sheriff, who is known for feeding his prisoners green bologna and forcing them to wear pink underclothes.

“Is that an excuse? That you’re joking? What’s that got to do with it?” Arpaio said. “You’ve still got to be held responsible for your actions.”

Arpaio said O’Neal left him with little choice because the sheriff fired a cadet in April for using the same racial slur in the presence of other officers.

“I can’t have a double-standard,” Arpaio said. “I can’t fire one deputy for using a word and just let him get a pass when he’s got my badges. . . . You do the right thing, no matter who he is.”

Arpaio gave O’Neal a special deputy badge in January 2006 after O’Neal visited Maricopa County. O’Neal was given a second badge when he was promoted to the rank of special-deputy colonel of his posse, a volunteer organization of crime-fighting citizens, after he and the Miami Heat won the NBA championship in 2006.


O’Neal formerly served as a reserve officer in Los Angeles and in the Miami Beach Police Department while he played with the Heat.

After being traded to the Suns in February, he joined the Tempe Police Department, where he serves as a volunteer. Lieutenant Mike Horn, a spokesman for Tempe Police, said the department won’t ask O’Neal to leave.

“This is an issue between Sheriff Joe and Shaq,” Horn said. “Nothing has changed with us.”

Attempts to reach O’Neal and his representatives Tuesday were unsuccessful.