In case you haven't heard, the NBA is back, or at least it will be very soon. Looks like Basketball fans around the world are going to get their prized 2020 season after all! As one of those fans I would be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little excited while also being extremely skeptical of sports returning in the midst of a global pandemic (FYI, people are still dying). We're dealing with billionaires though, rules simply do not apply. So what? A few people die, fuck it, lets get that TV revenue baby! Add the the current state of affairs in the United States and around the world? We need a distraction! Enough politics right, Greg?
Photo: Russel Westbrook
Who's Greg? Oh he's the guy with the sunglasses on in his car from twitter. There are thousands of them. The kind of person who might respond to #blacklivesmatter with #alllivesmatter or who treats the american flag (the very same flag that hung in homes of slave owners) with reverence and who believes that simply kneeling during the american anthem should warrant death threats. Greg is the kind of person who thinks that athletes should shut up about the systemic racism that affects them and stick to sports. You know a Greg, everyone does. Greg is overtly racist.
Even though Greg is frustrated by the very thought of ending racism, he's still winning, by a lot. You see, Greg simply doesn't want to give an inch. Greg sees HIS whole picture, which is this: A white man, freedoms intact. It's his world and everyone else is just living in it. Things have been great. As everything stands, (cops murdering black folks and co,) at least Greg doesn't have to worry about his life being wrongfully taken because of his race. So when Greg sees a protest on the news for something that does not directly affect him, Greg becomes threatened. Greg becomes aware of that inch.
Feeling threatened, Greg logs onto Facebook to defend his inch. Investing his energy and hatred into that one tiny inch. An inch, might I remind you, that simply represents black folks not getting shot in the streets by the people meant to protect them. An inch that doesn't actually affect Gregs life outside of his crippling white fragility.
Now, while Greg and his wife Karen are pouring everything they have into that inch, there is a whole movement pushing right back.
Over. One. Inch.
Do you see what I'm getting at? Greg and Karen are trying to hold onto an inch. People of colour are facing hundreds of years worth of accumulated miles that they endlessly must strive to take back. Say police brutality ended tomorrow, wow, amazing, great. Congrats on that inch! Now only thousands of miles to go.
The NBA is often touted as one of the world's most inclusive and influential leagues. Players throughout history have been outspoken on issues of social justice and the league as a whole has done it's shallow part to celebrate diversity in all of the usual corporate ways. I try to be thankful, and I truly am but let's not get it wrong. The voices we're hearing are the players. The NBA is known for being a "players league", meaning that when we think about the NBA we think of the stars who dominate the game or the personalities that make every broadcast and interview a joy to watch. That being said, the truth is that the NBA is a business.
Behind (almost) every pride flag and black history month shirt lies a system of exploitation and profit. As far as leagues go, the NBA is still a leader in social justice but it's a race in which first place still performs pathetically. Don't associate the voices of it's players with the moral worth of the business. Remember Donald Sterling? Yeah, he didn't just suddenly become a racist the day he was caught. That man owned the team for YEARS while people around the league were well aware. He even hosted a "white out" party in which he asked all his players to show up in all white. What did he wear? Oh, just an entirely black outfit. What in the Get Out is that shit?
Here's a great podcast about one of the darkest sagas in sports history: https://30for30podcasts.com/sterling/
Sterling represents the most blatantly problematic aspects of a league run by white "owners". The NBA perpetuates a system of servitude and power dynamics so marred by white supremacy that it looks just like any good old american business. We're talking about billionaires again, we're talking about capitalism. This is the point.
It's. The. System.
Greg and Karen are fighting for their inch and it's important that we do too. Black people are fighting for everything and until people like me (a white, straight, cis-gendered man) can see beyond that inch and understand the miles ahead, this movement will be a moment.
If you're reading this, you're probably like me: you love basketball. We love the sport, we love the players we idolized growing up, but we don't need to blindly love the league that facilitates a system of injustice.White supremacy is alive and well in every part of our lives and whether you like it or not it's thriving in our beloved league.
Black Lives Matter means so much more than a simple simply deeming Black lives as worthy or basic respect, It's about changing our world, the "good" and the bad. It means challenging our comfort zones and questioning our beliefs. It means holding our beloved NBA under a microscope and asking ourselves how the system needs to change and holding the league accountable.
No one is free until we're all free.