It Was So Familiar Then

First of all, if you haven't been reading the comments section of my "post" on the Darfur/China/Olympics situation, you simply must. T., our man in China and one of the site's longest-tenured community readers, is absolutely killing it with perspective from inside that country, right now.

One thing he raised that stuck with me: No country likes being criticized by foreigners, especially not a budding superpower that's defensive about its place on the world stage. My whole argument hinged on both the complexity (read: elusiveness) of China's hand in the genocide, as well as how little it had to do with the NBA players expected to speak out against it. I guess in a perfect world they would've anyway, but we would've been holding them to a ridiculously high standard. One that, were there not a moral absolute like mass slaughters somewhere in the equation, might be viewed as meddling.

Just writing that makes me feel like a heartless relativist, but there's also a streak of pragmatism to it. Yes, in the eyes of idealism, pragmatism always seems like a form of resignation or compromise. Especially when Jerry Colangelo could be the mastermind behind it. And yet there's also a back-handed etiquette at play there, one that defers to others in a better position, or with a greater responsibility, to speak.

All of which brings me to T.'s point that, if anyone's in an ideal position to speak out, it's Yao. It's not ideal in that China still controls much of him, and his purse strings. He would do so at great risk. But "ideal" doesn't mean convenient, it means "perfect." And isn't the point of speaking out to do so with some leverage, to create a critical mass of tension and unavoidability?

I know that America is a beacon of freedom for all the rest of the world, and it's on our athletes to spread that particular gospel. That's another form of idealism, one that makes for good narrative but almost always collides awkwardly with the real world. If we were going to be honest with ourselves about who should be talking about Darfur, we have to not only admit that Yao's closer to the issue. He may not be among the persecuted, but at least his relationship with China is based on more than a web of international commerce. We also need to recognize that, while condemning genocide is easy and universal, Team USA has zero idea how to go about discussing the issue in terms that might make sense to the Chinese people—which, as guests of China, they would for all intents and purposes be doing.

Of course, all of us feel strange insistng Yao do such and such, precisely because it would be painful for him, while our Olympians would just find themselves in awkard situation after awkward situation. And that's exactly how meaningful change should feel, since it involves more than just semi-informed twenty-somethings saying that raping and burning is wrong. Yes, LeBron said he would, Kobe did a PSA, and Tracy McGrady and Ira Newble have made Darfur into the rare international issue that draws the interest of the NBA community. They are the most famous athletes in the Games, and by far the wealthiest. That and their basketball crusade has been from the beginning bound up in national pride, which brings with it all sorts of well-meaning, deeply-felt, and possibly empty platitudes—that bad kind of idealism again.

Or, on some level, did we all not look at these Redeem Teamers as the sons of Jesse Owens, John Carlos, and Tommie Smith? There's that superficial, perhaps sentimental, identification, as well as the persistent hope that the NBA—because its denizens are for the most part black, visible on the field, and play a game that has long been interpreted in terms of race—would develop a political consciousness. And hey, it just so happens that the people suffering in Darfur are dark-skinned—though calling for some kind of solution there seems like basic human decency, and Sudan about as far from anywhere in the USA as you could imagine.

And, as much as I hate to say it, there's the fantasy that that the bad-ass black dude will take a stand, with a presence that a big 'ol Asian could only dream of mustering. They are strong, and outlaws, and rebels, and Other, and always in the struggle, and should do the work that real power brokers are afraid to. Oh, and do so with style. Maybe that's racist, maybe it's laudatory, maybe some of both. Let's leave it at this: I'm not comfortable making Team USA the locus of Olympic activism if doing so is just an extension of domestic baggage.

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At 8/06/2008 2:31 AM, Blogger T. said...

I didn't really mean to say that I think Yao should speak out, though (you didn't imply that, but I think I need to re-iterate this). It's a really tough thing to do to ask a man as patroitic as Yao to say "My country is wrong for doing this."

I think he needs to come to this conclusion himself and even then, he has a different perspective than me or us or Chris Martin - and he might not necessarily come to the same conclusion that China is complicit in the Janjaweed.

Furthermore, as Yao lives both in Houston and in China - I fear that if he were ever to speak out on something with controversy, he'd just be labelled a traitor who has live too long in the US.

Thanks for the props though. I'm not sure I'm the most eloquent or knowledgeable person to talk about China - I have to give a lot of credit to the China-centric websites I read everymorning after FreeDarko.

Appros of nothing, LBJ was carrying around a 3 foot bottle of Grey Goose at Racks Shanghai and pouring shots for everyone two nights ago.

At 8/06/2008 2:46 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Did I say Yao should speak out? I think I just meant that he could, because of his position. A position that's inseparable from a perspective we don't have.

At 8/06/2008 3:41 AM, Blogger Shane said...

This article provides an interesting perspective on the attitudes of the average Chinese citizen: http://www.newsweek.com/id/148997/page/2

However, being an (albeit fairly assimilated) Chinese-Canadian myself, I find that, among my friends that have arrived more recently from China, there is actually a decent amount of dissent and diversity of opinion over controversial China-related issues. More than I had expected, anyways. I guess you can't discount the fact that, like everywhere else, the loudest and most jingoistic shouters tend to drown out all the rest during times of tension and uncertainty.

At 8/06/2008 3:50 AM, Blogger T. said...

BS - no, you didn't. But I wanted to clarify my position too - I am by no means advocating Yao should speak up. I was just suggesting that if there was an athelte/famous person, then he (or hurdler Liu Xiang) would be that person.

Shane - I think that's also very correct. I probably erred in assigning "opinions" to the Chinese populace writ large, when in fact there's as much arguement and exteremism either way as any other relevant place, but loud and jingoistic tend to get noticed.

Finally, proof that China has a future as a freedarko nation - this is premier Wen Jiabao shooting a layup. Left handed!


At 8/06/2008 5:10 AM, Blogger Crabbie said...

About the only thing relevant I have to contribute that hasn't already been said is a strong reccomendation of Prasenjit Duara's Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China, which is one of my favorite books (though mostly about the early 20th century, and definitely on some out-there dense academic prose "fuck linear time" shit), and should probably be classified as a psychedelic.

The irrelevant thing I'll add is that this blog has gotten beautiful in the last couple of months or so, and it now occurs to me that it gets beautiful every off-season. I guess there'd be some important insight there, if my opinion meant a damn. Otherwise, I guess it's just a back-handed compliment. But anyway, yeah, it's always a real joy to (re-)discover this site every year, much as I often am annoyed to no end by it when the NBA's actually taking place.

wv: vcyfiprk - wireless vichyssoise in the park?

At 8/06/2008 9:48 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Just one thing in there that I'd quibble with, and it's really a minor point: Jesse Owens shouldn't be equated to Carlos and Smith. When Carlos and Smith made their statement, Owens was actively working against them with the white supremacist IOC Director. He later admitted that he was wrong to do that, but in '68, he was very much against making the statement and he undermined Smith and Carlos both in public and in private.

Other than that, great piece! I'd love to see Yao speak out on Darfur, but I don't think it's going to happen, if only because, as you said, the Chinese still have such a hold on him.

At 8/06/2008 10:20 AM, Blogger twentyonelol said...



At 8/06/2008 11:11 AM, Blogger Raoul Duke said...

I have to agree with Michael about Owens as an activist. The white supremacist IOC director was named Avery Brundage, and for Owens to support the decision of the man that joyously handed Nazi Germany the Olympics despite much international objection, is decidedly un-activist and completely un-Free Darko.

That being said, I like the perspective this article takes a lot. It addresses a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. If USA athletes protest in China, who are they protesting against and why? How does it relate to the international stage?

Carlos and Smith were protesting domestic conditions in America through the Mexico City Olympics because, from what I understand, they felt the Olympics process (as had the current leadership) had inspired similar treatment of the Mexican population...

So, if LeBron gives a gloved fist salute, what is he protesting? Can he protest China's involvement in Darfur, as a citizen of America, a country that has contributed negatively to the Butterfly effect-like politics that inspired horrid events like the recent "genocide" in Darfur (as many have said, is Darfur, based on historical classification of a genocide, a genocide? Many do not think so.).

I feel as though there is a very complicated notion of athlete activism (as of these Olympics, but certainly historically) in which mainstream journalists ask that athletes protest against China, but still condemn professional athletes that protest domestic politics (say hello to Etan Thomas).

Aside from my aforementioned criticisms (along with Michael), I like that you ask who benefits and at what stake from international athletes protesting China's role in the Darfur "genocide."

If the history of activism tells us anything, it would have to be a Chinese athlete speaking out for a protest to hit the Chinese government hardest. Any other international protest will be met as a xenophobic/racist reaction to China attempting to enter the world economic stage.

Dave Zirin recently wrote a pretty good article in the recent Nation that touches on this stuff, too.

Overall, though, good job.

At 8/06/2008 11:29 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I was waiting to read Zirin until I'd gotten my thoughts out. He always makes me feel guilty.

The real vein that opens up here: What could Team USA speak on? The war in Iraq? The economic crisis? Global warming? The need for energy solutions? The minute you read these, you see what real obligation would be for Kobe or LeBron. That's when you really get them coming into conflict with Colangelo, I think.

But again, those are much harder to do than abstrusely saying "genocide is bad." And if it goes any deeper?

LeBron: We need to stop this.
Reporter: Do you blame China?
LeBron: I know China supports the government of Sudan.
Reporter: Are you saying the government is behind the genocide?
LeBron: That's what I've read.
Reporter: Isn't there a civil war going on there?
LeBron: Yeah, I guess, but killing civilians is horrible.
Reporter: So are you condemning China or the Sudanese government or the Janjaweed?
LeBron: Well, I just want people to know this is going on.
Reporter: But you realize that many blame China, since they do a lot of business with Khartum and also give them weapons?
LeBron: Right, and I think they should stop that.
Reporter: They have invested a lot in Sudan's oil. The weapons are just a part of that relationship.
LeBron: Umm, okay.
Reporter: Hasn't the United States been known to hand out weapons and planes and stuff to advance its goals?
LeBron: Huh?
Reporter: We give Pakistan tons of guns and money and their secret service is in bed with the Taliban, who at times have been doing business with Iran, who have undue influence over any Sunni/Shiite strife in Iraq. Are we killing Americans?
LeBron: We need to build some schools and send in troops.
Reporter: Who? Ineffectual UN Peacekeepers? Those are there already. Come to think of it, have you ever heard of the Congo?


At 8/06/2008 11:43 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Sorry, I forgot the part where, if LeBron were to actually accuse China of anything directly and claim America has clean hands and a moral high ground, he then insists they change their ways. That would be the crucial "is America's soul for sale" juncture, but is it so easy to get there?

At 8/06/2008 11:59 AM, Blogger Raoul Duke said...

That's exactly what I was going for...

Colangelo and Coach K form an absolutely impenetrable veil of conservative domestic and international politics (see: Open Secrets) around this team, which I think is probably the first big obstacle in any sort of activisms way for the Redeem Team. Then, how do potential Team USA activists overcome the aliennation of the upper-class from the middle class, and especially, the lower class politics in this country. Would there even be a positive response to an athlete whose carbon footprint is bigger than Shaq's carbon shoes if that athlete was protesting a need for energy solutions? The Redeem Team has been used/exploited as a means of Pro-USA military propaganda in "Operation Iraqi Freedom). How does that influence their ability/desire to speak out against the War in Iraq... But, perhaps an fantasty conversation post is in order? LeBron and the reporter presents the question of "what are we protesting," but a conversation between a fan and an athlete activist presents the question of "why should we listen to you/what do you have to offer?"

This issue is too complex for a single person or blog to try to tackle, but I certainly admire the attempt.

The LeBron interview is perfect, though.

At 8/06/2008 12:49 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

It's upsetting to see the lengths China will go to try and stop any mention of Darfur and their human rights violations. I don't think I can just sit back and watch these games and support the olympics and their sponsors while China is supporting a genocide in Sudan. I am part of a campaign to boycott the opening ceremony on Friday unless an Olympic Sponsor speaks out about Darfur. I don't want boycott the entire games but at least we can show our support. Check it out here: http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/olympic-sponsor-speak-out-on-darfur

At 8/06/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger Melvin Dumar said...

I'm not sure this has made the freedarko rounds yet, but given the current discussion and shoals' initial focus on the political aesthetics of the moment:


This goes a bit past linking athletes with masses, to kind of equating masses with athletic infrastructure. Just goes to show that not everyone sees the same thing when they look at an ostensibly standardized, interchangeable object like, say, a high-dive spring board or a basketball court. Basically, Hoosiers lies.

At 8/06/2008 3:06 PM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

Damn that Colangelo and Coach K to hell for all that support for people putting their lives on the line for American interests.

It's pretty funny that we are debating the lack of symbolic action by some sport obsessed athletes and their choice to not risk even a little condemnation while condemning them for providing some support and relief to people who risk their lives on more then just symbolic actions.

At 8/06/2008 3:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I've never been against Team USA supporting the troops, but dressing up in fatigues and getting pep talks from McCain hammers home the point that some distinctions need to be drawn. . .

At 8/06/2008 3:31 PM, Blogger Raoul Duke said...

I was going to respond to R. Lobstah's point, but Shoals did the work for me.

"It's pretty funny that we are debating the lack of symbolic action by some sport obsessed athletes and their choice to not risk even a little condemnation while condemning them for providing some support and relief to people who risk their lives on more then just symbolic actions."

All I was saying is that the team should not have a distinct political identity, one that stifles potential voices because of the politics of both the "GM" and the coach. Coach K and Colangelo have done some truly questionable things, leading one to believe that players would be punished, unofficially, for voicing an opinion that is opposite or different from that of Colangeo and K.

If the Nike conspiracy wasn't obvious enough, there are clearly subliminal interests at play with this team.

And as Shoals said, distinctions need to be drawn.

Contrary to popular belief, the United States Army is a non-partisan institution. McCain speaking to the troops was in very poor taste and only worked to show the political slants of the owners.

Add to that the media's ridiculous attempts to give Coach K and Colangelo the credit for success, and we're talking about some very unfortunate politics for a supposedly non-partisan institution.

At 8/06/2008 5:25 PM, Blogger New Orleans Nation said...

The idea of a Nike conspiracy opens a window on to exactly why we shouldn't expect a thing from this Team USA--unlike Carlos and Smith, these men are professionals in their real careers, paid for by teams and by shoe companies. They aren't just risking alienation in the nation--they're risking millions upon millions of ollars. Or at least they've internalized that threat.

Its important that we never confuse NBA players as being outlaws, rebels, or Other. They are among a very, very small athletic elite that gets to enjoy an unimaginable lifestyle, so long as their achilles hold out and they keep their mouths shut.

The fact that we may look back and decide that in fact Coach K and Colangelo--White Republicans--took stronger (if subtle) political stands during these politicized Olympics tells us much more about where power still rests in the L and in the Games, regardless of how Lebron negotiates his contracts.

Should we hope for him or Yao to make a significant stand? We could, but as we have for 40 years, we won't see Carlos or Smith show up on the medal stand, not so long as Nike emblems are stitched on the jerseys.

At 8/06/2008 6:30 PM, Blogger MODI said...

BS - there is an alternative to the hypothetical Lebron conversation that you laid out and it is this.

LB: "I don't have all the answers, but it would be a shame if we didn't use this moment to all work together to discuss how to end this genocide in Darfur. If just my talking about it will help other talk about it, then that is a good thing.'

Americans also probably have higher expectations from the Dream Team than Yao because they are American. That is why we are not calling out Dirk Nowitzki too.

At 8/06/2008 10:47 PM, Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

BS: Or, on some level, did we all not look at these Redeem Teamers as the sons of Jesse Owens, John Carlos, and Tommie Smith?

Well, speaking for myself, "No. Very no." Politics aside--I'll get to those in a sec--the narrative about US-Olympic engagement has been about us flexing our muscle for a couple decades now, ever since we insisted that our pros get to play. And ever since that moment, the USA Basketball narrative has been about bullies occasionally getting beaten, and freaking the fuck out about it.

A comparison with the Winter Olympics' hockey is perhaps instructive. Canada is the US--they expect to win, and when they don't, souls get searched, heads are induced to roll, and so forth. The casual US fan expects to challenge the north for the gold, but anybody who watches much international competition understands that we lag rather behind Sweden, the Czech Republic, Russia, and occasionally Finland.

Canada in hockey and the US in basketball are both former overdogs who don't get that there's parity now. It's just...gauche. Who roots for these guys?

As for a quick touch of politics, I shall never forget, a Gulf War or so ago, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf getting absolutely crucified in Denvoid for the mildest of all imaginable protests. Guy got run out of town for not standing during the national anthem... Somehow, despite such insurrection, the republic stands. The response makes me nervous, though...

Anyways, as some comments ran the other day over to Sports on My Mind, if you want some politicizing from Team USA, you're prolly gonna need to free up a roster spot for Etan Thomas.

At 8/07/2008 12:20 AM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

If you were to categorize humans and wanted to find the biggest category possible, it wouldn't be women, Late Mongoloid, the poor, the heterosexual or the oppressed. The biggest category of human being is the self serving human.

"The fact that we may look back and decide that in fact Coach K and Colangelo--White Republicans--took stronger (if subtle) political stands during these politicized Olympics tells us much more about where power still rests in the L and in the Games, regardless of how Lebron negotiates his contracts."

New Oleans Nation,
You think maybe a coalition of the willing was what Team USA became? You think maybe they saw the benefits to themselves a just a little more meaningful then some hut dwelling nobodies? Suggesting that some white Republicans are responsible for the decisions of these players, of all players, is non sensible. You want to tell me Colangelo and Coach K have more influence in the world then LeBron James? Coach K can't even get tenure at Duke.

Many prominant white Republicans have headed out to Darfur, reported the crimes, initiated private donations, funded programs and have done at least as much as Mia Farrow in regards to Darfur. This isn't a partisan issue.

In my opinion, LeBron James could go on Al-Jazeera, announce his intentions to become a Wahabi cleric to preach hate of the great Satan, and still get a max contract.

The war metaphors used by basketball players, all athletes, are pretty much a staple of ESPN sound bites. There might be an alternative reason for getting the players together with real warriors and have them dress in fatigues. I just don't see the warmongering in that situation. I could be wrong but so could Homebread.

The Armed Forces are not partisan but the political climate has drawn the Armed Forces into the elections. When one party is standing on the promise to complete the task and the other party is calling the war a lost cause, you might think the military and those fighting for it would have some sense that their work and their lives are being toyed with by at least one of those parties. They certainly might decide that its the Republican candidate who is more likely to see them only as pawns or it might be the Democratic candidate, but to think that the soldiers should not get a face to face opportunity with the man who will make decisions that can either make their sacrifice pay out or make it all go to waste is disempowering.

Democratic consensus is build on lots of little reasons we might find to do the same thing. So, even if the reasons I mention above don't fit another readers' model for how things are playing out, I personally think many factors play a part in folks' decisions. Its not that easy to find one great common cause. Even with slavery, most Americans fighting for the North did so for their little reasons and for the many little arguments used to persuade them (coercion played a role of course). The players aren't making a statement because they just don't care enough to risk their access to what everyone tells them is the biggest market in the world.

Use of the white Republican moniker does more to label those using it then it does Colangelo or CK.

That said, Etan Thomas would be an interesting addition tot he conscience of Team USA.

At 8/07/2008 11:59 AM, Blogger New Orleans Nation said...

Lobstah--that's a good point about W.R. activism re: Darfur. Pulling out that label was simplistic and Darfur seems to be the issue we expect to hear from as far as the players go. Not human rights or sweatshops. And even those have non-partisan activists. My fault.

What is LeBron's influence in the world? What was/is Mike's? To posit that LeBron could do X and still get a zillion, I mean, based on what?? On what precedence? Fact is, its hard to think of a stand taken in the post-Jordan era by ANY superstar in ANY pro sport.

Is their warmongering involved in dressing up in fatigues? Not in a vacuum, no. It's a metaphor. But in light of the last 6 years of American soldiers' activity; the absence of any image of a dead soldier or bloodied fatigues in mainstream news, i.e. images of the consequences; the support-the-troops ultimatum that Bush/Cheney wielded against all arguments; then, no, I don't see it as simple as dressing up as warriors.

At 8/07/2008 5:40 PM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

LeBron's face is all over the world. He is much more charismatic then Coach K. He makes more money the CK. He has a platform to influence more people then Coach K does due to his fame and money. LeBron's skills are more in demand then CK's. Like anyone else, if they make radical statements or commit radical acts, then those who have shared power with them will disengage and they might have to find other patronage groups to join. Its social cooperation. While we may see that consequences for not cooperating may be severe they are not disempowering. They keep their money, they can vote, they have their civil liberties. They may have a hard time finding endorsement earnings but people become entitled to such things because of general appeal, its not a right.

There is not much oppression in the US today which attracts the sort of statements that the Civil Rights movement or the anti-war movements excited. For American people, the War in Iraq may seem horrible but they are not being coerced into fighting it. Today's Army is volunteer and there are huge re-enlistment rates which tells me the service people want to continue doing what they are doing.

Everybody in the US enjoys equal civil liberty these days. Some would argue that the government has become too aware of race in the other direction and is providing unfair benefits to minorities. This is not an issue which excites massive protests or inspires popular celebrities to make statements. So, maybe the issues of our day aren't oppressive enough to create the sort of environment which requires players to speak out. Thats at least as good a reason for the lack of protest by athletes in the last number of decades as anything. There is no substantial oppression to stand up against.

Again, I see your point regarding the fatigues. Yet, that does not negate my point. Just because you see the symbolism as you do, does not mean this is the dominant thought of others. You give people some clothes and ask them to put it on. The few times these players might ask why they should wear the clothes all anyone has to respond with is, "Its to show support for the troops and to bring out the warrior in all of us". If the person being asked to wear the clothes does not have strong feelings either way then that reason will probably get them to wear the fatigues. I don't think they care that much. Now if their brothers or sisters were being forced to fight the war, or they were being asked to forgo their millions so they might fight for Bush/Cheney, spill oil for blood, become carnage, and all the rest, then they might think about really protesting. Darfur, the sweat-shops, the illiberal press in China, the illiberal civil system in China, the War Agaisnt Terror are someone else's problem. That's been my point regarding Jesse Owens, the Mexico City protest and even the '80 boycott. These were examples of people expressing their frustrations at oppressions and perceived oppression, spoking to the audience who might overturn the oppression.

I'm sorry if you took Bush's "If you're not with us you are against us" quote to mean that you need to keep quiet about the war. It appears to me that Code Pink, 9/11 Truthers, Keith Olbermann, the Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, The Daily Show, Barak Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Reed, Kusinich, Ron Paul etc.... didn't quite read that message the same way you did.

You can google all you want and find the consequences of the war you seek. The news also doesn't show the consequences of car crashes, airplane crashes, drug deal shoot outs, drive by shootings etc... Our TV does not broadcast carnage no matter the event. I've seen the carnage on other venues and it makes me want to win the war more. So, I'm not so sure that your logic bears out.

At 8/08/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger Raoul Duke said...


Re: your positions on news coverage of the war

-Responsible citizens will go outside of mainstream TV broadcasts in order to get an informed opinion of the war. Assuming that people who read this blog are too stupid to figure out that the answer is neither in the left wing propaganda of the conspiracy theorists/comedians nor the right wing propaganda that is present in all forms of mainstream media, or, anything that relies on the Associated Press, for that matter.

-There are books (fictions and histories), criticisms, articles, films (documentaries and fictions), interviews, pamphlets, foreign news outlets (Al-Jazeera, BBC, etc), and countless other places that informed people can get their news. Nobody on this site wants to be patronized, so just knock it off.

-Everybody is getting screwed by this war and its consequences whether it's citizens in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan, who are being slaughtered as sacrificial lambs in their respective governments engagements with "Western" society, or deaths of "Western" troops who are being led to battlefields by former colonial nations that don't like losing control of former assets. It's all about perspective. More innocent people have died as a result of our movements in the Middle East and more will continue if we try to win this war. If we stay in troops and civilians will die, and carnage will increase (maybe even to a greater degree than before...). So, if you could explain your stance, I'd be grateful.

re: Your point about fatigues:

-You're merely flipping the dominant perspective on this board's point. Most of us on here believe that the fatigue stunt was a politically loaded move by noted conservative supporters Colanelo and K. Your perspective may not be the dominant thought of others, just as ours may not be either. Generalizing and assuming doesn't do anybody any good, and judging by the poll numbers for the general election right now, I don't think the war-hawks are in as big of a majority as you believe they are.

-Going along with that, Coach K and Colangelo matter just as much as James because in the eyes of mainstream media, the outlet by which much of the world learns about USA basketball, they are the reason this team exists and will win gold. Colangelo's team building process made him a tremendous celebrity to the point where Michael Redd, in an eerily "Stepin Fetchit" moment, changed his street clothes to reflect the more formal Colangelo's tastes. Similarly, Coach K is being painted as the white father, a paternalist presence that will bring all of these selfish-African-American athletes together and make them focus on fundamentals and team basketball. Watching the documentaries and reading the media coverage in many different publications and forms of media, this whole operation reeks of paternalism and a desire to elevate the status of the white organizers and footnote all praise of their African-American team with a "we couldn't have done it without K and Colangelo." Thoughts?

-James keeps his money and he votes, and it certainly isn't a right, but he is not equipped with the ability to set his own rules in a way that white celebrities, even the likes of Don Imus, get a chance to attempt at least once. Black athletes may make more money, but there is a good deal of criticism available pertaining to how most black athletes are still controlled by the white corporate mindset that "owns" them (NBA/NFL, Nike/Reebok, etc).

-I actually agree with you about past Olympic activism and have made that point earlier in the comments section.

Last but not least, re: huge enlistment rates.

-I'm not sure what kind of background you're coming from, but economically, this country is a mess. For most people, jobs are quite hard to get, especially the kind that allow you to support families/relatives. One job that never goes away is the army. You cannot assume that the reason people are joining the army is patriotism. That's close minded. Many people, friends included, I know who have joined the army have done so because it is a stable job and a potential career assuming that their lives cannot improve after their initial time is up.



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