Former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal should know better than to post an Instagram photograph of a disabled person for the purpose of mockery. After all, O’Neal recently added to the tardy criticism of Donald Sterling, the demonstrably racist owner of Los Angeles’ Spurs basketball team. And O’Neal’s fans are voicing their displeasure with their erstwhile idol.
O’Neal posted a photograph of Jahmel Binion, a native of Michigan who suffers from a rare condition known as ectodermal dysplasias. This condition causes symptoms such as a reduced ability to perspire, while those with the condition often have sparse hair and missing teach. According to the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias, at least one in 5,000 to 10,000 babies are born with the condition.
Binion is well aware of what is is like to be subjected to verbal abuse and cruel jokes. In an interview with Fox 2 News, the 23-year-old Binion said "I've been getting teased since I was yay tall.” He added, "People laugh at me, stare at me."
While the photograph of Binion has been removed from 'Shaq’sInstagram account, anger and disappointment has been notable on social media. O'Neal's Instagram account has approximately 600,000 followers. Instances of cyberbullying have come in for criticism in a number of similar cases, while there have also been cases of criminal prosecutions when the subjects of abuse have committed suicide.
The National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias has written an open letter to O'Neal on its website and said that its entire community was "terribly disappointed by the hurtful image." O’Neal was called upon to turn the incident into an opportunity to help in being a part of a change for the better. He has since apologized.
Binion himself has not been lying down since the O’Neal’s post. He has since launched the HUG DON'T JUDGE page on Facebook (click here) to counter cyberbullying. The page has grown tremendously and currently has about 12,500 members. Binion’s online group is encouraging people who have been affected by ectodermal dysplasias to share stories and photographs.



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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