Shaquille O’Neal is under fire for mocking a fan with a rare genetic disorder who took a selfie and posted it on Instagram.
Shaq took a photo with his face distorted and teeth sticking out, captioned “SMILE TODAY” and put it next to the selfie taken by Jahmel Binion.
Binion, of Michigan, suffers from ectodermal dysplasia, which causes abnormal hair growth and missing teeth. Sufferers also can’t sweat and have recurrent respiratory problems. Binion said he is used to being mocked, but he didn’t expect it from Shaq, reports The New York Post.
Binion said, “I was kind of hurt because I’ve always looked up to him. I’ve watched Shaq play basketball since I was [little], so I was like, why are you making fun of me? He is supposed to be this role model.” He said that he won’t let the criticism affect him though, saying, “I can’t let it get to me, because then I get hurt and depressed.”
Binion wants this to turn attention to his anti-bullying campaign “Hug Don’t Judge.” The National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasia responded to Shaq via an open letter on their website. They wrote, “All of us at the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias (NFED) are terribly disappointed by the hurtful image that you and others recently posted on social media about a member of our family, Jahmel Binion, who is affected by ectodermal dysplasia. Individuals affected by these rare, genetic conditions often face a lifetime of bullying and negative remarks because of their appearance, which others may consider ‘different.’”
They provided facts about the disease and wrote, “You might want to consider making something positive come from this. Consider giving Jahmel Binion the gift of a smile, one that others would not make fun of. Give him a smile that would give him confidence and pride.”
Shaq has yet to respond to media about the incident. Rapper Waka Flocka Flame and University of Michigan basketball player Trey Burke also mocked Binion.