Disabled Players Seek Apology From Laker

By Joel Grover
|  Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011  |  Updated 6:37 AM PDT
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Handicap basketball players seek apology from Andrew Bynum after he was allegedly caught parking in a disabled spot without a permit.

Handicap basketball players seek apology from Andrew Bynum after he was allegedly caught parking in a disabled spot without a permit.

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If Andrew Bynum wants to park in spaces set aside for the disabled, it's time he experienced a slice of life as a disabled person.

That's the stance of the Fast Breakin’ Lakers and other members of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, who extended the invitation after NBC4 published photos that captured Bynum allegedly parking his BMW across two disabled spots at a Whestchester supermarket.

Felix Tapia, of the LA Clippers wheelchair team, took a pause during a rigorous game recently to express his desire for a little court action against the Laker center -- on his team's terms.

“Maybe he should come down and show up -- and maybe get him in a wheelchair," Tapia said. "Play with us for a little while.”

An apology would be good, too, said Michael Garafola.

Garafola wears the familiar purple and gold Laker jersey and plays for The Fast Breakin’ Lakers, the competitive wheelchair team sponsored by the professional Lakers.

“If you’re not supposed to be doing something and you do something wrong, just go out and apologize," Garafola said.

”People want to hear you’re remorseful," he said. "You get paid a lot of money to do what you do. People idolize you.”

Bynum has yet to speak a word about the now-infamous photos.

Members of the Fast Breakin’ Lakers say a lot of good could come of this incident, if Bynum would publicly admit his mistake.

“I understand you made a mistake and I hope you can learn from it,” said Keith Davis, who ended up in a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a car accident.

The Bynum photos “open the door for disability awareness throughout Los Angeles," he said.

" Handicapped spots specifically are for people with special needs," Davis said. "They’re not to be taken lightly or taken for granted.”

More than 200 teams participate in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA).

Players like Joseph Hassan say they just want the respect they are due from their ambulatory peers.  Many players in the association took Bynum's act personally, he said.

”If we need that [disabled] spot and he’s in it, that’s a lack of respect," Hassan said. "So that’s what upsets me, is the lack of respect.”

These players say they just want Bynum to understand their concerns. “We happen to need those [disabled] spots,” said Fast Breakin’ Lakers Keith Davis. “When we don’t have access to them, it makes our lives a little more difficult.”

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