Thursday, January 21, 2010

Confused followed by disturbed

Sean at Sportsbabel was kind enough to send along this article entitled "Basketball league for white Americans targets Augusta."
But the title confused me. A white basketball team was going to protest Augusta National which still won't allow women as members and has a lovely history of racism? How would that work?
So naive. But it so clearly illustrates my thought process!
Anyway, no what is happening is that a whites-only basketball league is trying to establish a team in Augusta. The city, not the golf course.
I guess, given my initial interpretation of the headline, it wasn't too out of the realm of possibility for me that there would be such an organization. And it isn't. Basketball has always been rife with racial tensions. There have always been the subtle reactions to the prevalence of Black people who play the game professionally and in college. Have I recounted here before the story of sitting at a UIowa women's game against Rutgers when the older white man next to me talked about how he couldn't differentiate between the Rutgers players on the court? Because they were all black. Well now I have. (This was pre-Imus, by the way.)
Such incidents may be subtle but they are nonetheless damaging because they reify a belief in Black inferiority and generally relegate Black basketball players to roles as entertainers and money-makers for, primarily, white people.
This league, however, is an overt manifestation of the ongoing racism in basketball. This new league will only allow white, American-born players who have two white parents. These "minority" (as they call themselves) whites are going to take back basketball. Play a non-street-ball style game, they say.
Says the league founder about why there should be a whites-only league: "Would you want to go the a game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?"
First, one of most infamous crotch-grabbers, in my mind anyway, is former professional tennis player Jimmy Connors. He would adjust his package after every point, similar to the way Nadal pulls his shorts out of his crack. I think the crotch thing is more a guy thing and not so raced.
And second, I don't condone the illegal behavior of anyone, athlete or not. But I think that much of the violence is due to the long-standing racism in athletics and in American society generally. Players--some of them--may make a lot of money, but they know it's temporary and they have to, on some level, know that they are being used to make someone else even more money. It is just exemplifies a lack of respect of athletes, particularly Black athletes, and their diverse backgrounds.

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