Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has apologized to a Detroit man who suffers from a rare disorder for making fun of him on Instagram.
On Tuesday O’Neal tweeted, “Made a new friend today when I called and apologized to Jahmel Binion. Great dude.” O’Neal followed that tweet with another on Wednesday: “Had the opportunity to talk to Jahmel Binion yesterday and apologize about the post on IG!”
Rishi Daulat, O’Neal’s spokesman, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that O’Neal personally wrote the tweets.
Binion confirmed on the Facebook page Hug Don’t Judge—an anti-bullying campaign that he started after Shaq’s original online post mocking him—that he had spoken with the oversized jokester late Tuesday night. “Shaq contacted me and apologized for his actions,” Binion wrote on Facebook. “He now understands that his actions were wrong and not only did they hurt me but my entire NFED family.”
Binion has ectodermal dysplasia, a condition characterized by a reduced ability to sweat, missing teeth and abnormal hair growth. The NFED is the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dyplasias, which wrote an open letter to O’Neal on Monday saying, “Bullying is never acceptable.”
Binion told Fox 2 that he was confused and hurt when he saw that O’Neal had posted a picture teasing his selfie.
“I was thinking, ‘Man, he’s supposed to be this role model, someone everyone is supposed to look up to,’ ” Binion told MLive. “If Shaq does something like this, then [everyone who follows him] will think, ‘We should do this.’ “
The post was removed from O’Neal’s Instagram account, but the damage had been done. And Shaq wasn’t the only one to cyberbully Binion—Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke and rapper Waka Flocka Flame also joined in on the social media teasing.
Binion told Fox 2 before speaking with O’Neal that instead of letting the online taunts get him down, they inspired him to want to start his campaign. “Rather than bully that person,” Binion said, “go up and show them that you are different [from] everybody else.”