NBARS #14,423,683

You know what time it is. What the clunky acronym stands for. What we do when there's no real NBA news.

By now, I'm sure everyone's heard that Billy Hunter is playing the race card. In his mind, the league's claim of (presumably white) "agents intervening" implies that Hunter and the predominantly black Players' Association can't do it on their own.

Notwithstanding the validity of this argument (there are African-American agents, some of them quite powerful), as King Kaufman points out, this makes three times in as many months that race has come up, quite forcefully and convincingly, in the NBA. Usually, we associate the race card with feverish, desperate rhetoric, a last-resort used to stir passions and cloud the issue when other, more rational tactics have failed. In the NBA, though, it may be that race is legitimately the central concern in all league politics. That's because, as I've said before, this is a black league. African-Americans far and away make the up the majority of the players; black coaches face some discrimination, but nothing compared to the NFL or MLB; in terms of executives and ownership, the NBA is light years ahead when it comes to diversity.

Most importantly, though, it's a sport marketed and consumed as African-American. Whether you love or hate the NBA, chances are these feelings are also bound up with your opinion on black culture, the hip-hop generation, inner city economics and demographics, and a host of other broader concerns that, in baseball or football, are always secondary to THE GAME. If Hunter, O'Neal, and Lebatard can so effectively raise the specter of racism, it's because race always looms large over the NBA. You can probably attribute some of the (generational) urgency to a similar movement in the record biz, but here we're talking about a "takeover" of the league/industry itself, not just making dramatic statements within someone else's power structure.

The only way the race card will stop being persistantly relevant is when the NBA is no longer an institution you could play it against.

UPDATE: Woody Paige just claimed that Hunter is out of line because the NBA is so good and accomodating about race, socio-economic backgrounds, etc. I agree, but I think this is exactly why they have to take the issue of race seriously all the time. He calls this "colorblindness;" I'd say it's opening the door for minorities to get what's rightfully theirs. I don't think it's a stretch to ask that, once an institution admits the importance of diversity, it follows through once it becomes clear that diversity has become its very identity.


At 5/19/2005 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still have yet to see anyone adequately tackle the most serious racial clusterfuck of the season. Big & Rich playing at halftime of the NBA all star game. If anything is indicative of the leagues continuing stratification between the execs and the players it was on full display in denver.

At 5/19/2005 5:20 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i believe our very own shoefly voiced some outrage at it. . .the amazing thing is that, unlike the super bowl, no one who would be offended by a hip-hop (or at least remotely edgy and youthful) halftime show is even watching the all-star game. all of america tunes in for the super bowl; all-star game has much more limited appeal, so why not go all out and admit that's your audience, instead of trying to cater to the least offensive, least interesting common demoninator.

At 5/20/2005 9:03 AM, Blogger Ken said...

Why do you assume the NBA audience is only black and all about hip hop? The NBA has plenty of white fans. The all-star game was in Denver, so they did the halftime Denver style.

And really is "Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy" the least offensive, least interesting route. That was when Jewel performed OR when Destiny's Child (who sang pregame)performed some slow song. These guys had dirty lyrics, dancing little people and some Karl Malone looking dude rapping. I'm not saying it was cool but it wasn't like it was Pat Boone either.

Drunk girls love that song by the way.

At 5/20/2005 4:07 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'm not saying that it's ALL black, just that the culture of the sport, its image, and the role it plays in society is inextricably African-American. or, if that's too strong, it's the only sport with clear racial connotations

At 5/23/2005 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Race is always an issue in the US especially in sports and arts. What concerns me about the Hunter saga is why white jewish( bulk of jews in US are white) interests are playing the race card, often white jewish folks play the religious and minority card whenever they have issues with black folks or they seek to advance thier interests.

I am troubled by David Sterns remarks toward Billy Hunter yet I have seen this patter quite often where white jewish agents have this contempt for black professionals. I always ask this question which hat are the jewish folks wearing today... Are they minorities or white folks???

At 5/23/2005 8:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

not entirely clear on what you're saying, since both the agents and the nba brass have lots of jews on their side. i don't see the agents as being pitted against the players' association; even if hunter wants to reserve the right to claim its independence, at the end of the day both have the same interests in mind.

if the (white) agents were to alienate the players, it would be bad for business. and remember, there are plenty of establishment black agents.

and, at the risk of touching off a firestorm, jews are a white minority in america. the same way italians, irish are. we've just had a tougher time/taken a different tact as far as assimilation is concerned.

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