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Column: Houston Rockets’ invite to Lizzo shows they missed the real message

Singer Lizzo attends a game between Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday at Staples Center.
Singer Lizzo attends a game between Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday at Staples Center.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

When it comes to the many questions of Lizzo there is one that rises above them all: Why is she up for best new artist for the upcoming Grammy ceremony when her first studio album was released in 2013?

The next pressing query: What the hell was she wearing — or rather, not quite wearing — at Staples Center on Sunday when the Lakers played the Minnesota Timberwolves?

It’s remarkable at how a few seconds of scantily-clad rump shaking during a break in play continues to be a hot topic in the national media days later. ABC’s “The View” tackled the topic. Multiple newspapers touched on it. And on Thursday during an appearance on “CBS This Morning,” she was again asked about it and said, “My butt was my least favorite thing about myself and I learned to love it and that was the thing everybody can’t stop talking about.

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“Be you. Do you. Don’t ever let anybody steal your joy, especially not the internet.”

Anthony Davis got to 50 points against the Timberwolves the old fashioned way, with post-ups, drives and jump shots without making a three-pointer, which has become a boring staple of today’s game.

Personally, I was more offended she was talking about the Timberwolves’ Karl Anthony-Towns while Anthony Davis was in the midst of scoring 50 points than her thong-clad gyrations. Especially considering the half-naked Laker dancers started it by dancing to her music.

But let’s cut to the proverbial chase. The controversy is not about what was worn while twerking as much as who was wearing it.

What does this have to do with sports?

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Great question, but not one sparked by Lizzo’s dancing on Sunday. After all, she didn’t create cheerleading, she just participated in it. So if you’re wondering why we’re talking about Lizzo within the paradigm of sports then what you’re really asking is, “Why are we talking about the plus-size woman?” I say this because no one appeared to have a problem with the thinner, scantily clad dancers gyrating in front of children. Now all of sudden it’s an issue.

The Houston Rockets waded into the discussion, tweeting an invitation to Lizzo to come dance at a home game, and unfortunately the vast majority of the responses to that post referred to her size in denigrating ways. Not her dancing talent, mind you, or her Grammy nominations or beauty; her size. The Rockets didn’t help the situation by accompanying the invitation with a photo of the thin dancers, unintentionally drawing attention to root of the issue.

Lizzo performs onstage during Q102’s Jingle Ball 2019 on Wednesday in Philadelphia.
Lizzo performs onstage during Q102’s Jingle Ball 2019 on Wednesday in Philadelphia.
(Bill McCay / Getty Images)

My response to the team’s invitation was that if they were serious about Lizzo’s message they would seek to hire dancers of various sizes as opposed to turn the incident into a publicity stunt. Lizzo, who moved to Houston from Detroit when she was 10, is not the only woman of substance with talent who can carry a beat. It’s been my experience that basketball teams allow space for larger women — and men — to dance as a running joke. A novelty. Certainly not folks to be held on the same level as “regular” dancers and cheerleaders regardless of their ability to dance.

Entertain.

And yes, be sexy.

Lizzo’s outfit was revealing but the response to her twerking was even more so. It showed why female athletes and television reporters are held to a different standard than men. It also showed why the proclamation that the sports industry is the most egalitarian line of work there is, has always been just a bunch of malarkey. From segregation to homophobia to sexism, the games we watch on television are not excluded from the games we play in life.

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