Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bye Bye Love: Why A Racist Owner Isn't The NBA's Biggest Problem

The NBA has a problem and it’s not an 80 year old white guy who pines for the days of separate drinking fountains.  Adam Silver is riding high on all the metaphorical high 5’s and slaps on the backs he’s been receiving for taking a hardline with Donald Silver.  Which is kind of sad.  There is nothing heroic or brave about opposing racism.  It takes the same effort as taking your shopping cart to the cart corral in the parking lot of Home Depot.  It’s just the right thing to do.  And getting too congratulatory only opens us to a conversation we don’t want to have.  Your gonna take his team for being a bad person?  LeBron James says there is no room in the NBA for Donald Sterling.  He may be right but does that apply San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver who has made homophobic comments in the past and recently called a family of Mexicans “wetbacks”.  Should he be allowed to play professional football?  Or will he get the opportunity to apologize and take sensitivity training?  And anytime a professional athlete shoots up a strip club or runs a dog fighting ring, at least part of the discussion is the culture they were raised in as if it were some sort of excuse.  I have yet to hear one talking head on ESPN talk about Donald Sterling being raised in a different time. 
If anything Adam Silver should be pissed David Stern left him with this.  Donald Sterling’s racist views are well documented.  No one should be surprised.  The reason this is not even a really problem for the league or it’s players is stuff like this takes care of itself.  Players won’t want to play there.  Coaches won’t want to coach there.  And good ones won’t have to.

Kevin Love, or more accurately his agent, recently let the Minnesota Timberwolves know that he will be opting out of his contract and taking his talents elsewhere (Thanks LeBron.)  And this my friends, is the NBA’s biggest problem.  Not Kevin Love specifically.  The fact that this happens all the time in cities throughout the league.  ESPN and talk radio have hours to fill so they fill a lot of that with their own speculation.  That speculation becomes it's own self fulfilling philosophy.  Once Kevin Love signed the contract that allowed him to opt out after three years the speculation started.  Will the Wolves trade him to Lakers for a sack of magic beans today, or will they let him walk for nothing?  He’s from California so you know he wants to play there.  You have to trade him now to get anything of value for him.  Has there ever been a trade in the NBA that has been close to even?  And this isn’t unique to franchises that are bad or poorly run.  In 2012-13 season the discussion of where LeBron James would be playing when 2014-15 season began.  Does he not like Miami?  Is he tired of winning championships?
Only teams in LA, New York, Boston and to a lesser extent Chicago are immune to this.  That’s 6 teams.  And it isn’t just about making sure the best players only play in the big markets.  If a team in a smaller market has the audacity to make the NBA finals the immediate talking point is “Is the NBA worried that no one will watch an Indiana/OKC final?”  Isn’t the point of professional sports to win?  Even if you live in Memphis?  This year you have Miami, Indiana, San Antonio and Oklahoma City as your final four teams.  So what do the Sports Reporters on ESPN have to talk about?  Whether or not the NBA is unhappy that these 4 pathetic cities managed to make it this far.
The NBA should care about the perception that they don’t want most of the teams in the league to win.  As long as the NBA treats the 24 teams not in NYC like they’re the Washington Generals they shouldn’t expect communities to support these teams.  They should start giving back tax money giving to these teams in the form of Arena’s and practice facilities.  And as long as players of Kevin Love’s ilk spend the first 6 years of their careers bombarded with the idea that they are just honing their game for another team in a bigger city nothing will change.  Players of Love’s talent are the type you build a team around.  And they are hard to get.  For the first time since trading Kevin Garnett the Timberwolves have a sliver of credibility.  And now they are forced to trade it away.  Despite two overall #1 picks and another on the way the Cleveland Cavaliers still haven’t recovered from LeBron James leaving.  Every NFL season starts with hope.  Even the most pessimistic fan hangs on his team every week.  Fans of teams that are consistently bad blame ownership and management.  Fans of the Milwaukee Bucks feel they will never have a chance.  And that is the biggest problem the NBA has.  The void of any real hope.  Viking fans feel jinxed because of superstition combined with reality.  T-Wolves fans have no reason to feel optimistic because their team is in a league that only wants large market teams to compete. 
Donald Sterling doesn’t want black people coming to his games.  Someone needs to tell Adam Silver that doesn’t make Magic Johnson the perfect candidate for ownership.  Give people like Donald Sterling enough rope and they’ll hang themselves.  Feeling obligated to deify such thoughts shows a lack of sincerity.  So kick him out of the league or let him suffer the consequences of putting words to his thoughts.  But stop acting like it’s the cancer eating at the core of your league.  Prejudice and bigotry can be found in every locker room and front office in the league.  Making Donald Sterling the face of racism just distracts you from the real issue.  Fan apathy.           

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