Shaquille O’Neal has been accused of mocking a disabled fan on Twitter, after he uploaded an image of himself replicating Jahmel Binion’s selfie to his Instagram feed. 23-year-old Binion suffers from a rare condition called ectodermal dyspelasia, which affects his hair, teeth, skin and sweat glands.
O’Neal uploaded a collaged image of Binion and himself, which immediately saw his Twitter followers erupt with furious anger towards the basketball legend. O’Neal currently has 500,000 followers on Instagram and 8.3million on Twitter, and after he received the outpouring of abuse he decided to take down the offensive image.
Support has been coming in thick and fast for Binion, and an online campaign entitled, “Hug Don’t Judge,” has been launched.
Binion has since been discussing his initial reaction to O’Neal’s bizarre insult with MLive. “I was confused,” he admitted. “I was thinking, ‘Man, he’s supposed to be this role model, someone everyone is supposed to look up to.’ If Shaq does something like this, then (everyone who follows him) will think, ‘We should do this.'”
O’Neal hasn’t contacted Binion since their first interaction, however because of his original image rapper Wacka Flocka Flame and Trey Burke, a former University of Michigan basketball player, have also uploaded their own pictures mocking him.
Binion’s Hug Don’t Judge Facebook page, which he only created on Saturday morning, has already amassed 4,558 members as people from across the globe have started to upload their own pictures and messages from people who suffer from rare conditions like his.
“It feels like I’m not alone,” he added. “People are supporting my side of the story.” Binion also revealed that he has a simple message for the 42-year-old O’Neal. “Why?” he asked, “And I’d let him know I’m starting this ‘Hug Don’t Judge’ campaign. Maybe he could be a bigger person and support or contribute to my campaign.”
The National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias has since written a seven-paragraph open letter to O’Neal, stressing their support of Binion.
“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.’
Bullying is never acceptable and we, as a nation, have had some devastating consequences as a result of bullying.
However, to be called out on a celebrity’s social media and made fun of is especially reprehensible. We applaud Jahmel for reacting to this cyberbullying by establishing a positive social media campaign called ‘Hug Don’t Judge.’
[Image via Twitter]