I like to think I’m a pretty level headed person more often than not. I’ve been accused of being rather stoic with my emotions and not displaying them enough. Let’s just say I’m a work in progress.
One thing that immediately excites me however is the world of sports. I’ve spent the better part of my life playing them in some form or other. The sport I’ve been the most dedicated to is basketball, which most people assume given my height of 6’7”. From 3rd grade through college I found myself on a variety of basketball teams some good, some bad, some great. Over the years I’ve played with hundreds if not thousands of guys and girls all over the country. In some regards I believe this experience makes me somewhat of a professional of the game in general.
Another area I have a considerable amount of experience in is being an African American, I’ve done it pretty well for 35 years now. It has been an up and down road with more good times than bad, mostly because I try to make the best of every situation. I grew up in an interesting era, as the first generation of my family that always legally had the same rights as everyone else. I say that because I think it’s something that seems to get lost in our supposedly “post-racial” society.
Think about that for a second. I’ve done a lot of work to trace my family back 10+ generations to the 1500s and out of that plethora of people who share my DNA, I am part of the first generation that was born into a society where everyone had the same basic rights. Not even my parents who are 21 and 29 years older than me can say this, and that in itself is pretty remarkable.
Given that is hasn’t been “that long” since the Civil Rights Era, one could expect people to have relapses to the old way of doing things and treating people. Many people born during the 1920s and 30s are still alive and well along with some of their antiquated beliefs. While I get all that, it still deeply hurts when racism crops up regardless of who it is directed at.
Yesterday it popped up in a big way when a recording was released of a prominent owner of a NBA team allegedly going on a hateful, racist tirade against his black and mexican girlfriend. To most people it wasn’t a surprise, but still a bit of a shock. Everyone knows people with these beliefs still exist and to some extent probably always will.
Many views have been expressed from everyone including the team coach, players, other league coaches, and many other public figures. The thing that brought me the most joy was nearly all the opinions that were voiced came out in strong opposition to what was said. Unfortunately this has not always been the mainstream reaction to situations like this. It is extremely refreshing to know we have finally reached a place in time where actions like this are considered reprehensible by mainstream society.
With so many opinions floating around, of course there are a million views on what should happen next. Many people are calling for Donald Sterling to be removed as the team owner along with be suspended from league activities. While I definitely agree with this punishment, I know the NBA has to be extremely careful with how they proceed. It’s for that reason I can appreciate the amount of care they seem to be taking. Ultimately this could turn into the biggest issue they have faced as a league, especially with a brand new commissioner in Adam Silver.
I won’t claim to know the inner workings of league operations, because I don’t. Many people have called for the players themselves to boycott and sit out games during a crucial playoff run. While they initially considered it, they seem to have come to the consensus they are in this position with a goal in reach (winning the NBA title). Given my background I can totally understand and respect this view because they are trying to do something every person who has ever checked into a basketball game has shot for.
While I won’t for a minute condemn anyone on the team for continuing to play, I would be lying if I said a part of me still didn’t want them to. Players in professional sports rarely find themselves in positions where they have control of their careers. More often than not they don’t have a choice of where they play or how long they are there, they are simply the hired help. They often sustain painful injuries, many with long term implications, but are patched up and urged to get back into the game as soon as humanly possible. Their high salaries come at a price, and they are no good to anyone out of action. Once they get to the point of not being able to contribute in the ways owners feel their salaries dictate, they are traded or cut, to be replaced with a newer model. It’s a cutthroat world, but that’s just the way it goes.
Many people looked to the league’s most outspoken owner, Mark Cuban, for his views on the situation since he always has an opinion about everything. In rare form he gave a rather subdued statement, which I’m assuming was the result of a gag order by the league. Subsequently shortly before the Mavericks game started he tweeted something that was a bit disturbing as well. “Its playoff time, no reason to talk about anything in the NBA that does not relate to our Mavs. Lets Go Mavs !!” My initial reaction to this was utter shock as the events of the day were a lot bigger than any individual team. Given my high admiration for Mark, I really tried to give him the benefit of the doubt on this, and ultimately just hoped he was trying to deflect the attention away from him and deal with the more immediate matters he had at hand.
Ultimately this is a situation much bigger than Donald Sterling, the LA Clippers, and the NBA. This is situation that will be a defining moment for our overall situation. Anyone who believes this isn’t their problem is sadly mistaken. In 1963 Martin Luther King wrote one his most famous quotes, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. If it is proven that it was indeed Donald Sterling’s voice on the recording and it was not altered, anything short of his ultimate removal from the the NBA stands to completely tear the entire league apart and create a larger problem across all professional sports leagues. Racism has no place in our society and it’s up to all of us to drive it out whenever we encounter it.
While this situation is extremely unfortunate, we have the power to overcome it and that’s exactly what we must do.