NBA Lockout – Racial Dimension

23 Oct

Not a big NBA fan. College Basketball was, at least until it got screwed by the destruction of the good college basketball leagues by schools pursuing that college football money, my favorite spectator sport.  What I would like to see is separate Football and Basketball leagues in College. One of the major reasons college bound potential basketball stars wanted to play in the Big East or the ACC (before they sold out to football) quite frankly was the level of competition.

In any event, as the NBA strike/lockout staggers on, becoming more acrimonious by the day, there is the increasing chance of issues, which shouldn’t even be issues – becoming key impediments. Bryant Gumbel was waaaaaay out of bounds – it’s hard to have sympathy for a bunch of guys, almost all of whose annual income puts them in the top 1%, and sometimes in the top .05%.

NBA lockout: Negotiations could be hijacked by racial perceptions

The owners “lied to you,” Derek Fisher said, moments after the players’ union president walked out of fruitless labor talks in Manhattan on Thursday night. And with that the mutual distrust and name-calling began anew.

Now the NBA is again facing the prospect of a bye year. Soon, it won’t be about money. Soon, the Rev. Jesse Jackson worries, it will be personal and irreconcilable and no longer about the color green.

“I hope it doesn’t degenerate into names and language that’s hard to take back once it’s started,” Jackson said from his Chicago office late Thursday afternoon. “If it goes down this road, that could amount to irreparable damage. If it goes away from labor negotiations, things could become irretrievable.”

I called Jackson to see what he thought of Bryant Gumbel’s portrayal of NBA Commissioner David Stern as a smug and pedantic bully in his dealings with the players during his closing remarks this week on HBO’s “Real Sports.” Gumbel’s commentary included the misguided characterization of Stern, widely known as the most forward-thinking, ethnically inclusive commissioner in modern pro sports, as a “modern plantation overseer.”

Gumbel’s language may have been over the top, but it shouldn’t obscure his larger point about perceptions possibly formed by players, many of whom might feel minimized by the condescending tone of the most powerful man in their profession.

“Bryant certainly exposed a subtext of tension,” Jackson said. “He pulled the cover off a very sensitive issue: how we handle the race dimension of it. And I hope we would not have a my-way-or-the-highway attitude about this.”

Stern, of course, wants the race issue to go away immediately because he knows the union has jumped on the perception that bargaining talks have been racially tinged before. He knows that when NBA players think The Man is out to stick it to them — even if Michael Jordan is now “The Man” in a different incarnation — solidarity becomes less a financial issue and more of an emotional one.

But in the NBA, as color-blind a sports community as I’ve ever been around, race is undeniable, always a subtext. Just look at the negotiating table: On one side sit the owners, all Caucasian males apart from Jordan, ranging from mid-40s to soon-to-be octogenarians. Across from them sit their 20- and 30-something employees, almost 84 percent of whom are African American males.

The older white men are now asking the young black men to take a pay cut in order to cover their purported losses, upward of $280 million a year. Given that, it’s almost ridiculous they call “basketball-related income” the elephant in the room.

Once race becomes a factor in the discussion, it begins to tinge perceptions of everything and everyone.

Spurs owner Peter Holt, who heads the owners’ labor relations committee, has been one of Rick Perry’s top 10 donors the past decade, giving the Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate more than $500,000 in political contributions.

A sports owner making contributions to the governor of his franchise’s state might be seen as logical self-interest. But through a racial prism, it can be viewed as Holt being pals with a guy whose family’s hunting camp had the n-word painted on a rock near the entrance for years.


Posted by on October 23, 2011 in The Post-Racial Life


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2 responses to “NBA Lockout – Racial Dimension


    February 10, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    “NBA Lockout – Racial Dimension Btx3’s Blog” honestly causes myself contemplate a small amount more. I personally appreciated every single section of it. I appreciate it -Alison


  2. Candra

    March 19, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    This is the 3rd blog post, of yours I personally read through.
    But I really like this particular one, Window Shades
    “NBA Lockout – Racial Dimension | Btx3’s Blog” the best. Thanks ,Ervin



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