26 March 2008
Hugs, not thugs
Here's a fact: A vast swath of America thinks the NBA is a haven for thugs. A lot of people see black skin, jewelry, rap music, and tattoos and think of gun play and drug trades. Of course, the NBA's police blotter has been no worse than those for the other two major sports. And it isn't like the NFL doesn't have black people, or baseball players don't get tattoos. But the 'thug' label continues to stick to the NBA in a way it doesn't to any other league.
I blame Latrell Sprewell.
Actually, I don't; there are plenty of hotheads shooting hoops, not all of whom have tried to choke P. J. Carlesimo (who, incidentally, is presently the coach of The Team Currently Known As The Seattle SuperSonics). But "hothead" does not equal "thug," and in the hopes of clearing this matter up, Ziller calls upon one man who could "help save the NBA": Barack Obama.
Here's why: After Obama's speech last Tuesday, Americans experienced one of those rare-as-Clippers-in-the-playoffs moments to discuss race issues in the media, at the water cooler, around the dinner table with something approaching civility. Sports fans haven't dealt with the issue in a big way since Jackie Robinson and Texas Western. Things have changed since the '60s, obviously. But racism is still around us. Heck, look at last year's Jazz-Warriors series.
Not that we should expect miracles:
This isn't to say the country's racial divide will be bridged in the next four (or eight) years under a President Obama, or that Commissioner Stern's work on this issue will ever be done. But talking about it and making people think about it, you could say, is half the battle. It's easy for someone to look at Caron Butler's tattoos or Chris Wilcox's hair and typecast. In a postracial America (or something close), that stereotypical standby is less of a presence, and some semblance of respect already given to shortstops and quarterbacks might [be] offered to two-guards.
As a citizen, I suppose a potential boost for the NBA's image is not a reason to vote for a candidate. But as a fan, I know who and what I'm rooting for: that someday, maybe the casual sports fan every sports fan will look at David Eckstein and Allen Iverson and see the same thing: players.
I am not quite so sanguine about Obama's true commitment to a "postracial" America, but to the extent that he's jump-started the dialogue and it seems fairly clear to me that, intentionally or not, he has done so he's made a genuine contribution to life in these United States, even if he doesn't survive the bloodletting at the Democratic National Convention. Whether that constitutes an actual reason to vote for the guy is left as an exercise for the student.Posted at 10:07 AM to Net Proceeds , Political Science Fiction