Racism…Basketball and the Political Thought

It is not surprising that progress against racial discrimination is not cordially refuted. It is more surprising that we are living in an era where we are no strangers to political activist such as Nelson Mandela, who made a humbling approach to invite for dinner the former judge that sentenced him to prison for almost 30 years for murder in 1963 (when Mandela was a freedom fighter during the apartheid in South Africa). Then there was President Abraham Lincoln who freed blacks from slavery, and then the great President John F. Kennedy, who called for peace for black citizens in America and ordered equality for all citizens. The two presidents would later be murdered by assassination – on April 14, 1865 (Lincoln) and on November 22, 1963 (Kennedy), respectively.

In comparing racism to the past, this issue has taken great political and social strides to insert calmness between cultures and ethnicities to feel inclusive to grow collectively in the economic and competitive North American culture. Employers are embracing a diverse workplace. Black ethnicities have an opportunity to improve their standard of living through education and trades schools which translates to improve their economic standing.

The following are statistics that relate to black citizens in America: • 1 in 4 African Americans are living in poverty • Household incomes for blacks averages $35K a year

In viewing professional sports, the NBA and the NFL provides great economic relief for many disadvantaged, improvised, gifted black athletes.

In an around Spring 2014, Donald Sterling, who at the time was the current owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, was in a rage with his girlfriend Vanessa Striviano when Sterling made racial comments about his disgust with her taking photos with Magic Johnson and undermined the players on his team; while doing so, Sterling noted that he is their sole provider to their means of survival and for that they should be grateful, amongst other comments.

Sterling’s comments were retracted with passionate disgrace by fellow NBA owners, players and fans. Although racism stills exists, it is alarming when done so within the realm of the NBA, more notably by an NBA owner in a league where 76.3% of its players are black. The NBA took swift action in verifying the comments from Donald Sterling, removing him from all NBA activities including personnel activities, removed his rights as the owner of the LA Clippers and vowed to force a sale of Sterling’s team.

Later, this past summer, the NBA was notified during the free agency period that Danny Ferry, General Manager of the Atlanta Hawks, made racial remarks about NBA player Loul Deng’s cultural background and way of living. This lead to a second racial investigation by the NBA where they initiated an internal search of the Atlanta Hawks communications. The search discovered an email from Bruce Levenson, Owner (Atlanta Hawks), explaining that he was filled with frustration about the amount of blacks in the arena, which negatively impacted revenue and attendance by other diverse groups. Lawson believed that he was simply addressing a mere fact, instead his views were deemed racist. Before the NBA could have an opportunity to address the email with Levenson, Levenson notified the league that he will sell his controlling interest of the Atlanta Hawks. The general response to the Hawks recent incidents was met with mixed feelings. Some journalists thought that the business operations of the Hawks were already in shambles and this would be the final blow to initiate a changeover. Other journalists believed that this incident will lead to a compelling story with the return of the team’s centre, Al Horford; in addition, it’s hopeful that their off-season player acquisitions will lead to a jump in position within the Eastern conference. Although racism is a point of matter, the other view is that the Atlanta Hawks are not a major revenue generating team within the league and that this issue will eventually get brushed under the rug.

The NBA is slowly becoming more of a racially and culturally diversified league. It currently has an Asian coach in Eric Spoelestra (Miami Heat), and players from the Middle East, Asia, South America, India and Europe. Black and ethnic players must accept that they will not always be accommodated by other racial groups, yet till this day, and thanks to Commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA is one of the most accepting professional leagues in the world.

Almost two (2) years ago, America faced a tough situation in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and it is now faced with a repeated issue when Ferguson, St. Louis, police officer, Darren Wilson, recently shot and killed teenager Michael Brown. Currently, no one knows the outcome of the events that had taken place, but it puts a mark on the black culture that “we” (even I, myself) are still not fully inclusive in what we call a democratic society that preaches for equality.

I encourage young blacks to continue to make strides in your educational or career endeavors and use criticism as a form of motivation. Do not be shy in taking the next steps to achieve a prosperous life. Basketball amongst other sports provides a gateway to endless possibilities. Don’t allow someone else to close a door that you desire to have left open. You have the ability to change an adversity filled story into prosperity of wealth.

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