Yes, E-40's Ejection Was Racial Disparity In Action

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E-40, pictured here at the Chase Center in 2022, was ejected from Game 1 of the NBA playoffs in Sacramento in Saturday night. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Right from the start of Game 1 of a highly anticipated NBA game between my Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings, I immediately noticed something was off. And it had nothing to do with basketball.

As the son of Mexican immigrants and a lifelong hoop head, I’ve always felt at home among Bay Area sports fans. In particular, Warriors fans reflect California’s cultural pluralisms more than just about any other team in the nation — not only in race but in age, gender, and economic class. So when I flipped on the TV on Saturday evening and saw the monolithic crowd, my instincts churned. There were hella white people at the game in Sacramento — a city recently celebrated for being the most diverse in the United States.

Hours later, the internet blew up in response to footage of Vallejo-raised rapper Earl “E-40” Stevens being ejected from the game, after what he alleged to be an incident of “racial bias.” I was not as shocked as others may have been. Nor was I surprised when Sacramento fans posted comments like “he claimed racism lol,” and “If he had kept his cool, he probably wouldn’t have gotten kicked out.”

As of now, NBA sources are claiming E-40 was removed from the game due to “standing excessively.” A smattering of fans online have also chimed in, stating he should’ve stayed seated during the game. But that’s like kicking Stephen Curry out of a basketball gym for making an excessive amount of three-pointers. What else are you supposed to do at a high-octane sporting event? Sit down, stay seated and politely clap with a bourgeoisie delicacy?

The Sacramento Kings organization have also issued an official statement, promising to investigate the matter. But if E-40’s account is accurate, and he was unfairly targeted by a white woman in a crowd where he was clearly othered — whether by race, fanship, or other factors — then Sacramento had better get ready for an arena-sized apology.


I’ve visited NBA arenas around the nation — from Denver and Oklahoma City to Boston and New Orleans — and I know what it feels like to be away from the comfort of a Bay Area crowd. I’ve sat in sections where not only was I wearing the wrong colors, but where no one around me was visibly Latino. No one ever attacked me directly, in part because I made sure not to attract too much attention. But it’s definitely unsettling to be the sole representative of a different group among a large audience, especially as a person of color.

If you’ve never been in that situation, then you probably don’t know how strangely hostile and tense it can feel, and how quickly civil decorum can dissolve into a mobbish clamor against your presence. For most white Americans, it’s simply an environment they’ve rarely experienced, and as a result, whenever a person of color brings it up, it usually gets dismissed as an exaggeration or irrelevant complaint.

Even worse, if you’ve never been pulled over, physically searched, temporarily detained or threatened to be taken to jail — due to nothing more than your physical traits, the clothes you’re wearing or for looking out of place in a certain environment, something I have personally experienced — then you might not fully grasp the levels of anxiety and anger that ensue when a security guard or enforcement officer approaches. Now put that in the context of Saturday night’s game. Race can never be separated from an outcome in this situation, in this country, in a certain body.

The incident also exposed underlying economic and class disparities in California. When the “We Believe” Warriors made it to the playoffs in 2007, I made sure to drop everything and attend two games. Back then, the Bay Area was only beginning its exorbitant cost of living increases, so a first-generation teenager like me was able to hit up games in East Oakland with my single-parent dad and older brother.

Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Going to this year’s playoff games at the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento means paying prices that’ve never been seen for a first-round playoff match in the league’s history. The average cost is $688 per seat; in lower-level seats, where E-40 was sitting, fans typically pay thousands of dollars, effectively making them hyper-exclusionary.

Here’s where race, as always, is a factor. In 2022, according to the City of Sacramento, non-Latino white residents accounted for 29%, or less than one-third, of the city’s population. Yet in data showing average household incomes by race, most incomes higher than $100,000 per year are made by white residents.

Translation: despite being in the minority, white Sacramento residents maintain a major economic advantage, and have a significantly higher chance of being able to afford a high-cost, high-demand event like Saturday night’s playoff game.

There’s a saying in basketball: “ball don’t lie.” Well, after I took one look at the playoff-adrenalized masses in Sacramento, I couldn’t help but think: “crowd demographics don’t lie.” Factually speaking, the arena lacked any visible segments of people of color. In this scenario, E-40, despite being a hugely successful Black entertainer and entrepreneur, was vastly outnumbered — and then thrown out.

E-40 has attended countless NBA games for both the Warriors and Kings throughout his years as a superfan, often sitting near the teams’ players — something his business empire’s success allows him to do at this stage in his career. He has regularly appeared on national television during such games, including the NBA Finals. But this is the first time he has been tossed out. It’s out of the ordinary, to be sure.

According to the Washington Post, when he found out about E-40 being jettisoned out of the arena, Warriors star Klay Thompson defended the rapper, saying “In my time knowing him, he’s always been respectful. He’s always been considerate of those around him. Very weird to see, and I hope it’s resolved.” (E-40 has announced that he will not be attending Game 2.)


It worries me that fans in a city like Sacramento can deny access for others. If a mixed crowd can’t gather for a sporting event in California’s capital — a state that most Americans would point to as being inclusive — then what does that say about our country’s deceptive failings?

Beyond sports, it reminds me that, for centuries, privileges for certain Americans have historically been leveraged against other groups of Americans. And that those calls for removal often have real consequences for those who are targeted, and told where and how they can exist — whether that means being kicked out of a basketball arena, or something much worse.


For me, that’s something that will never sit comfortably.