Posts Tagged NBA

Zero Tolerance on racism? The NBA’s Adam Silver got it right on Donald Sterling

Adam Silver’s NBA media conference had that special kind of feeling. That same feeling I had when as a young boy  I saw Tommie Smith and John Carlos, U.S. Olympic sprinters, raise their fists from the medal stand in Mexico.

This was that kind of special moment for all people of color in society.

And, of course it had to happen first in the place too often dismissed by people as the toy store of life—in sports.

But where else would we see this sort of thing happen first?

Sports has always been the place for the truly gifted and exceptional athlete—many of whom are persons of color.

And when we see their excellence, it is hard for society to square up with all the ignorance that exists on race.  Sports people want to win. They want the best players. When the best players are people of color, it’s hard to harbor a racist thought.

Unless someone tape records you and releases it to the public.

And then, from there,  it really is up to the players, not the bosses.

Great leverage comes when 70 percent of the league’s  players are African American. The players’ recognition of their power made Commissioner Adam Silver’s job even easier.

Morally, and for business, it was just the right thing to do.

But Sterling is a professional litigant. Here’s a guy who wasn’t scared of the Fair Housing Act.

And he will no doubt challenge whether and if the NBA can force him to sell his business, or impose a lifetime ban.

That judgment will take place in the courts, where it always takes time, and money to get the kind of imperfect justice we usually end up with. I expect a long, protracted court fight.

But Silver really showed what an empowered executive, with the backing of the players, and a majority of fans can do—achieve a moral triumph.

It’s definitely “feel good” time. But this battle is far from over.

We still live in a society where soon we will hear from people who will question Silver and the NBA. These are the people who are against things like  affirmative action, who see eye to eye with Sterling, and believe that he was a man who enriched minorities,  bought them houses, cars, put food on their table. There will be people who will insist Sterling is some sort of humanitarian.

Hard to believe. But  remember, we live in a society where there are people who think you’re a racist if you fight for race-based admissions and fairness for people of color.

Enjoy the “feel good” of the moment.

When Sterling responds, it will be a new game, new fight. Already Rush Limbaugh has come to his defense. Surely, he will enlist his One Percent allies, the Kochs, Tea Partiers, et al.

Amid the noise, we will need the memory of the moment to remind us Silver got it right when it came to Sterling.

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Defending the Worm? Why we shouldn’t beat up Dennis Rodman too much

An old pair of Dennis Rodman Converse high-tops, the ones emblazoned with that weird sun shape, are somewhere in my Smithsonian called a garage.

I didn’t have Jordans. I had a pair of Rodmans.  So you know, I have a passing appreciation for the style and basketball ability of the old Rodman.

That was the Rodman of the NBA. Not the UN.

Known as “The Worm,” Rodman was valued as a tough guy defender and rebounder. That’s all.  He didn’t score points. Wasn’t his job.

That’s the way we should see him in his role as Diplomat Dennis.

The guy’s  no Madeleine Albright.

And after his history making trip to North Korea, he’s certainly not scoring points for himself, or Kim Jong Un for that matter.

But he’s grabbed the media’s attention, and in doing so, he’s created the chance for us all to see what truth, if any, we can glean.

So much isn’t known about North Korea in the U.S., we can hardly stand it when even an aging pop/sports star gets a glimpse behind the curtain. No one gets that kind of access to the country or its leadership. With or without a jockstrap.

That’s why blasting Rodman for not knowing the contents of your standard CIA dossier or for his inability to recite the human rights violations of the North Korean government, just seems—to mix sports metaphors—like piling on.

It would be better to just ask him without judgment all that he saw. Dennis’ world is part fantasy, after all. I mean, the guy did date Madonna.

Instead of berating him for his ignorance of the evil of North Korea, because of his unique trip, we should be happy getting his different look of a country that’s generally under cover.

And then, most certainly, juxtapose it with what we know of the ongoing misery of a starving nation, and the refugee situation along the China border. Rodman doesn’t refute that. Rodman was never known for his articulation.  Just by going there, he accents the contradictions in North Korea.

Remember Rodman was never the scorer. Just the rebounder. Kim Jong Un may be using Rodman. But this odd pairing, only puts the issues of the North Korean people back on the mainstream radar, where North Korea seems to come into focus only when it lets out a little steam with a nuclear test.

Now, thanks to Rodman, it’s time for the human rights activists and the North Korea specialists to make their points and score.

The Worm has done his job.

Remember, he’s no Madeleine Albright.

 

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Amok on Lin: Why ESPN’s tough action matters

The New York Daily News reports that the fired writer responsible for that racist ESPN headline is apologetic and never intended a slur.
The writer,28 and clueless, readily admits to using the cliche “chink in the armor” so many times in the past that it never occurred to him it could be racist. Yeah, but he probably was never using the phrase in conjunction with an American born Chinese person.
I feel sorry for anyone fired or suspended by ESPN. But Jeremy Lin represents a sea change in how we look and refer to Asian Americans in sports.
ESPN’s zero tolerance has to be applauded. It noticed it was guilty of a double standard when it comes to Asian Americans and owned up to it in a strong and definitive way.
For example, yesterday in the NBA, Kevin Durant went for 51. Would the ESPN writer make a crack about celebrating that feat with a nice cold watermelon?
Of course not.
Now the ESPN style book will let people know how to relate to Asian Americans.
Let’s hope the shock jocks and comedians who continue to use tired Asian stereotypes as humor crutches get the message too. When they keep doing it, audiences think it’s OK to slur. Just like the clueless writer at ESPN. That’s how slurs keep their currency. But the times have changed.
And it took Jeremy Lin to make the point.

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Linsanity’s chill: ESPN fires, suspends employees for Lin headline

After hearing from Asian Americans around the country, ESPN took action and fired the writer responsible for the “chink in the armor’ headline. And it suspended an anchor for using the same tired cliche.
That’s both good and bad.
Good, in that it punishes the perps. Bad, in that it should send a chill through the ranks of wordsmiths in journalism.
I take no joy in seeing someone lose their job. Indeed, I think a public apology on all ESPN shows would have been sufficient.
The problem with firing is that the mesage to ESPN workers sounds more like censorship than a corrective action.
We’re fighting racism, not free speech.
And yet, what happened when we were free to talk about Lin?
People started ching-chonging and using racist language because they don’t really know how to be clever or smart about Lin without resorting to race.
It shows how ignorant and how limited people are about Asian Americans.
When Lebron or Kobe have a great game, no one breaks out the fried chicken and watermelon jokes. Everyone knows that’s racist. For Asian Americans, no one seems to care. Maybe now they will.
I’m sure ESPN didn’t want to be a buzzkill and spoil the party. But by taking an extreme zero tolerance stand against slurs, it shows it means business.
Lin’s performance today helping the Knicks beat the defending champion Dallas Mavericks means Linsanity has legs.
Maybe now we can all celebrate it without a lapse into racism.

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