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Racism Alive and Well in NBA Blog Land

Earlier today I visited Yardbarker.com and came across a post titled “The All Whitey Basketball Team.” The concept is simple - what would a team only composed of white, American-born NBA players look like? Who would be on the team?

Seems like an innocent enough topic, doesn’t it? At first glance, I was inclined to agree. However, when I started to read the comments posted by Yardbarker readers, it became clear that this was something much more sinister than a simple “what if” scenario.

Here are some tidbits from the comments on Yardbarker and on the blog itself:

  • I thought hustle, grit, and determination are the only characteristics that white players had? ‘We he sucks at basketball, but he sure does hustle’” - a blanket and unfair generalization about whites followed by some sort of impression of “black speak” perhaps?
  • Let’s take it a step further and have the all black hockey team. Now that would be comical. I don’t know if we could have a full team but it would be funny.” Nice. Black people can’t play hockey, right?
  • It’s the same in football and baseball. Never pick a black quarterback or a black pitcher. They have no arm strength. I would like to see an all black hockey team but I would rather see an all black mathematics team. Lol. Just watch a porn movie and you’ll see why white men can’t jump.” Don’t even know where to begin with this one. This person needs to be educated.
  • wheres Obama? he is half-white and can ball” Seems sort of silly not to slander the black President when all these other people are slandering all black people…right?
  • I used to build all-white teams when I was a kid on the NBA playstation game” - Sad really. This person has been a bigot for a while now and still doesn’t know it.

First of all, it’s disheartening to know that so many people have absolutely no clue. I still (naively) cling to the belief that most people can look past race, but this is quite a bit of damning evidence to the contrary.

In my mind, discussing the benefits of an all-white basketball team is no different than discussing the benefits of an all-white country club. Both ideas are based on a single, flawed premise - that the color of our skin somehow impacts our inherent characteristics. Worse, these discussions imply other differences too. Saying that “white players are awkward” implies that “black players are smooth,” which debases a black player’s talent. A black player isn’t in the NBA because he’s just naturally gifted - it’s because he’s a damn good basketball player. He wasn’t born with some sort of magical NBA gene - he was in the gym busting his ass for more hours than you or I can imagine. That’s why he’s in the NBA - being black has nothing to do with it.

Why don’t these people understand that making fun of white players (because they’re white and therefore “not as good at basketball”) is a back-handed slap in the face to black players who worked hard to get where they are?

There’s no excuse for this sort of racism, and I think that Yardbarker should step in and block these sorts of posts in the future.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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  1. 4 Comment(s)

  2. By Gunaxin - Phil on Nov 12, 2008 | Reply

    First, let me say thanks for the link. Secondly, I did not write the article, but my friend did. I did however make that first comment that you posted from yardbarker :

    “I thought hustle, grit, and determination are the only characteristics that white players had? ‘We he sucks at basketball, but he sure does hustle’” - a blanket and unfair generalization about whites followed by some sort of impression of “black speak” perhaps?

    The blanket and unfair generalization about whites was intended to be so. Sarcasm is a bit tough to pick up on the internet. The second part wasn’t intended to be “black speak”, It was a typo (we, instead of well) and was intended to imitate commentators on TV. White players are often commended for their hustle and heart, and black players are often commended for their athleticism and speed. You may disagree with that, but it is done every day, so that way my lame attempt at humor.

    The article was not written with any type of hate in mind. I personally think racism implies some level of hate. I do think the article, and my comment above, is more closely related to stereotypes, which are common fodder for comedy works of all kind. And while yes, speaking in generalizations tends to lump people all into one group, and not recognize their individual talents and abilities, stereotypes are normally based on something.

    I think many people find stereotypes funny, even when they are directed at themselves. I have seen Cops laugh about going to Dunkin Donuts, old people laugh about going to the early bird special, and black people laugh about going to Popeyes. It is when those stereotypes are used in some sort of mean spirited or hateful way that I think we have cause for concern. A light hearted article about the best white players in basketball is no reason to get up in arms in my opinion.

    I can see how you can take my comments from yardbarker above in the wrong way, but it was really a joke, which is hard to interpret on the internet sometimes. For the record I am white and fat, and you can feel free to make fun of me all you want, as long as it just in good fun. Intent matters most in my book.

  3. By JL on Nov 12, 2008 | Reply

    Phil - Thanks for commenting. Intent certainly does matter. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this type of joke only serves to highlight a bias that, unfortunately, rears it’s ugly head in the comments from others on Yardbarker and on your blog. Surely you can see that many people aren’t able to separate the innocent intent of your article with reality - instead, they reflect on some perceived inherent difference. The point of this article - to poke fun at white players - is in poor taste at best. But the effect of this article - to give the white bigots a chance to feel somewhat vindicated for their misguided beliefs - is the negative aspect.

    Perhaps “racism” isn’t the right word - perhaps this is just simple old ignorance. Still, if I were a black NBA player (I’m not, I’m just a white fat guy like you), I think I would find this disheartening.

    It just doesn’t seem like a constructive or helpful topic, and your justification that “whites are commented for hustle and heart” while “black players are often commented for their athleticism and speed” by TV commentators belies a bit of bias that you might not even be aware of. I can think of plenty non-white “hustle players” (Reggie Evans, Anderson Varejao) and plenty of white “athleticism and speed” players (Steve Nash, Chris Kaman, Linas Kleiza, etc.), and a whole bunch of NBA players that don’t clearly fall into any one of these categories.

    In other words, it’s a joke that’s not funny.

    Still, I respect you for grabbing the bull by the horns and commenting here. Hopefully perhaps someone will read this post, your post, and all the comments, and it will help them reflect on this issue in a positive way.

  4. By Jericho on Nov 14, 2008 | Reply

    I think you’re reading too much into this. You mention “discussing the benefits of an all-white basketball team”, but the article isn’t trying to claim any real benefits of an all-white team. It’s not suggesting people should pick all white players or that they’re somehow superior to black players. If anything, it shows the deficiencies of an all-white team.

    You also say that “saying “white players are awkward” implies that “black players are smooth.” That takes a couple leaps of logic. If white players are awkward, that doesn’t mean some black players aren’t awkward too. Maybe white players on the whole are more awkward percentage wise, but so be it. Nor does it imply black players are smooth. They can simply be not awkward. It’s not like you’re either awkward or smooth. There’s a whole scale that everyone fits somewhere on. We’re talking degrees of grey, not black and white. Third, saying someone is smooth is a compliment. And I don’t see your leap of logic to say that calling white players awkward is somehow insulting how black players made the NBA. No one’s suggesting they made it because they’re “smooth”. No one’s suggesting they made it on anything other that merit. I’m not sure where you made this connection.

    Finally, seeing a list like this brings up one other point. The players on that list really aren’t that good. Few of them actually start on their NBA teams. Only one decade ago in the 1990s, you have Hall of Famers like John Stockton, Larry Bird, and Chris Mullin still playing. Now the best white American player is Chris Kaman? What happened there? Something seemed to go askew in the player development cycle. It at least makes you question why that is.

    Overall, I think the tone of the piece is humorous in nature. It pokes fun at the faults of the current white players, but it also makes you wonder if we’ll ever see a Larry Bird type again. One doesn’t need a great white American player, but you can be curious about it without being racist about it. Much the way blacks are falling in numbers in baseball, sometimes you have to look at the demographics and ask why is this happening?

  5. By JL on Nov 15, 2008 | Reply

    Jericho - That article is hardly a “demographic” inquiry. You state that you’re not discussing “benefits” only “deficiencies” - what’s the difference? Either way you’re talking about the pros (none) and the cons (plenty) of an all-white team.

    I also don’t understand how you don’t see that insults to white players as a group are also insults to non-white players. How is this a leap of logic? You can’t say that whites are “awkward” without making an inherent comparison? Awkward usually means that a player is less skilled in the basketball world, and the obvious meaning when someone says “that guy’s dribble is awkward” is that he’s not a very good dribbler. How do we know he’s not very good? Because we’ve seen someone else dribble that was better.

    “Awkward” implies that someone else ISN’T awkward - the term itself is rooted in an IMPLICIT comparison. I used “smooth” to express the opposite of “awkward,” but if you want to use “non-awkward,” so be it. If “whites are awkward,” some other group must be “non-awkward.” Based on the wording of the article, clearly that other group is black players. See my previous comments for my issue with that.

    Still, my real problem isn’t with the blog post - it’s objectionable but not specifically racist - it’s that this type of post furthers a conversation that racists are quite comfortable with. You needn’t look any further than the comments on Yardbarker or on the Gunaxin blog to find evidence. There’s not much point in a post like this.

    BTW, kudos to Gunaxin for taking a better tone with respect to their post about an “all black hockey team.” While it might be seen as pandering, I had the opportunity to work with someone who played in the NHL and he was adamant that it was (and still is) very much an “old boys club.” Many players, black or otherwise, have a hard time breaking into the NHL because of inherent barriers.

    Still, I’m not sure what the benefit to either of these blog posts really is. Black and white players of any sport should be rated and discussed only on the basis of their accomplishments - not on the color of their skin.

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