You know a sport, which it seems is always on the hunt for its next Great White Hope, in hopes of bringing it back closer to its less colorful roots?
You know a sport, which instituted a controversial (some called it racist) dress code, in hopes of pandering to the sensibilities of anxious white ticket holders and sponsors, who were turned off by the do-rags, large jewelry and yes, even sneakers as well as other clothing choices associated with black male Hip Hop culture worn by some of its players? The rationale behind it was that Hip Hop gear equals crime because, well you know…Hip Gop gear is worn by black guys and black guys commit crime, therefore all black guys in Hip Hop gear are criminals. It is the worse and most laziest of rationales and yet I distinctly remember lots of brothers and sisters siding with the owners and against many of the players, who thought the policy was racist and paternalistic over black male masculinity.
You know, a sport where despite the fact that its players are largely black, the audience is 70 percent white. But no one threatens the players and the teams with boycotts and petitions for “cooning” in front of the white gaze every time a ball player shows off during three point shot and dunk contest during All-Star weekend.
You know, the same sport where all but one of the team principle owners is white? And yet no one is talking about who’s getting rich off our labor and why we can have real black empowerment and nation building until we stop supporting financially and emotionally the white man’s game.
You know, a sport where it has been reported that “more than 200 players on the top 25 teams were either arrested or cited by the police a total of 277 times” – 40 percent of which involved serious crimes. Now I’m not the one for respectability politics, but we were spitting mad and cursing all black woman-centered reality television when Evelyn Lozada for jumping on that table and yet sit in relative silence, if not defensiveness whenever the players are found to behave in similar egregious manners.
You know the sport, where black boys in particular continue to have unrealistic expectations for professional sports careers, according to one study? And yet I don’t see too many of our folks pulling their kids out of basketball summer camp.
You know, the sport where Bill Russell could never feel at home in the same town he had won those championships for? And yet there are some among our folks, who speak fondly of the glory days of the Celtics.
You know, the sport where Donald Sterling can prosper? And yet we watched as brother after brother got on television and in newspaper columns to pardon Sterling while simultaneously blaming the “groupie” for failing to respect the old bigot’s privacy. And yet nobody called those folks double agents.
Men’s interest and likes are just as embedded in white supremacy as well as patriarchal structure. And just like most of the women-centered entertainment produced by this structure, sports, including basketball, are commodified entertainment. What’s different is how male-centered activities, including all of its’ dysfunction and pathologies, have been normalized that we don’t even recognize them. Its skill and talent were christened important by the male and largely white culture. It does nothing physically to build nations or strengthen families, outside of making individuals somewhat rich. And it’s value largely benefits those outside of the community. And yet when these conversations arise about cultural responsibility of our image, all we want to talk about is “Basketball Wives” (or a variation of that). But again, what about basketball?
Where is the mass movement of concerned menfolk, who have no problem sharing with women, how stupid they are for supporting such garbage television, ready to sacrifice their Cleveland Cavaliers’ jerseys for the cause? Oh, and speaking of the Cavs, what happened to all the righteous black angst lots of folks had at Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who four years ago, penned an angry open letter to former employee LeBron James calling him a “coward” and a “traitor,” for leaving that city for Miami?
Remember everyone – from old barbers at the shop all the way up to Jesse Jackson thought Gilbert was acting like a slave master pissed that his prized slave had run off from the plantation. But what happened to James’ own concern about image and respectability, when he decided to return and help the man that had defamed him, sell some tickets, fill seats and get even wealthier (more wealthier than James and he don’t even have to break a sweat)?
Nothing happened and nothing will happen– because outside of dunking a ball, there are no other expectations we have for our basketball players. And as long as James can do that well he will get a pass and an assist from his fans. Now I’m not saying that we should immediately tear up our season tickets and revolt against the NBA – but I’m not opposed to that idea neither – but if we can turn a blind eye to the shenanigans present in professional sports and ignore its potential negative impact on the black community, under the guise of it being entertainment (or even a skill) then it shouldn’t be that hard to do the same for all forms of women-centered entertainment, including reality shows. Anything else is just being hypocritical, sexist and counterproductive.