Brian Ettkin
Section: Sports,  Page: C1

Date: Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ALBANY - When Micheal Ray Richardson refused to shake an opposing coach's hand after defeat, he was hypercompetitive. When he made a trade without telling the general manager first, he was a character, Maverick Ray. When he left the Patroons for two games to instruct at an NBA fantasy camp, it was just Micheal Ray being Micheal Ray. When he picked up more Ts than you'll see in a month of "Wheel of Fortune" shows, he was a cannon so loose you couldn't help but watch for the next explosion.

But when Richardson told a fan who heckled him early Tuesday night to "Shut the f up," and when near game's end he shouted at another heckler, "Shut the f up, you faggot," you wondered how this guy keeps his job. The answer: The general manager, Jim Coyne, is his friend and enabler. Coyne said he didn't intend to speak to Richardson about his conduct. "He's an adult and he should know better," Coyne said. "He knows if he's acting appropriately or inappropriately."

Oh, really?

After straddling the line between eccentrism and the outer limits of acceptable behavior, Richardson fell and tripped the wire a public figure can never cross. In addition to his slur against homosexuals and verbal beatdown of two fans during the game, Richardson made bigoted comments about Jews in an interview with the Times Union before it.

"We will not tolerate and the league will not tolerate bigots to perform in our league," Patroons owner Ben Fernandez said after huddling Tuesday night with Coyne, CBA director of operations Dennis Truax and Patroons director of security, Bill O'Brien.

After reviewing the incidents, Fernandez said, Richardson could be suspended or fired.

Richardson should be suspended for the rest of the CBA championship series, effective immediately. Because if an alleged leader insults fans, Jews and homosexuals and it goes unpunished, it insults us all.

It started with an offcolor quip Richardson made in his office to two reporters when discussing the contract Coyne had offered him Monday to coach his USBL team.

"I've got big-time lawyers," Richardson said. "I've got big-time Jew lawyers."

It was an inappropriate quip in this setting, but no harm, no foul.

When told, however, that such an offhand remark might offend people because it plays to the stereotype that Jews are crafty and shrewd, Richardson replied: "Are you kidding me? They are. They've got the best security system in the world. Have you ever been to an airport in Tel Aviv? They're real crafty. Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they've got to be crafty."

Why are they hated? he was asked.

"They know that in this country the Jews are running it if you really think about it," Richardson said. "I mean, which is not a bad thing, you know what I mean?"

"How are they running it?" he was asked.

"They got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean?" he said. "Which I think is great. I don't think there's nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they're run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they're run by Jewish. It's not a knock, but they are some crafty people."

To try to help Richardson understand how such comments could be hurtful to Jews, I told him it was analogous to asking a black person to visit because there's fresh watermelon in the refrigerator.

Told his comments were bigoted, he backtracked and said, "It's just a figure of speech, just like when they call us ... `nigger.' When they call us `nigger' I don't get offended, because most of the people who say the word `nigger' don't know the definition. If they knew the definition they wouldn't say it."

Richardson also said his second wife, from whom he's divorced, is Jewish.

Told of Richardson's prejudiced remarks about Jews, Coyne said if "he knew that it would offend somebody, I don't think that he would say it," and that he wouldn't make Richardson issue a public apology.

"If an apology is necessary that can certainly come," he said. "That is Micheal's decision."

When I saw Richardson 15 minutes after our pregame conversation, he smiled, waved and said, "I hope I didn't offend you."

If Richardson's anywhere near the coach's chair tonight, we should all be offended.

Brian Ettkin can be reached at 454-5457 or by e-mail at bettkin@timesunion.com.