Effect of Right Wing Policy in US Sports Part III: The Pacers Too White?

Farooq Ahmed@@farooq09Correspondent IApril 7, 2010

The NBA is a basketball league watched all over the world, and some of its marquee players are of African or ethnic background. So is it surprising that the NBA is over 90 percent black/minority? Probably not.

Is it slightly surprising that the Indiana Pacers current roster is over 50 percent white? Some would say so. Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star in an article suggested that the Pacers franchise was too white.

Kravitz’ comments drew lots of criticism from various corners in sporting circles across America.

Stating that the actions of previous Black players have been detrimental to the team and the franchise but there was no reason to suggest that the Pacers were being racially biased when selecting players in the draft or in free agency

However, in a way Kravitz does deserve some credit for publicly broaching a touchy topic that fans have been whispering about since the Pacers drafted Tyler Hansbrough in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft. 

With the pick, the Pacers approach a 50 percent white American roster, depending on free agents.  This is an obvious anomaly in a league where about 90 percent of the players are African-American or foreign-born.

The primary question raised by the article is whether Larry Bird is specifically targeting white players.  Kravitz and Bird both claim that he is not, and the instant media analysis from ESPN in shows like "First and 10", "Around the Horn", and "Pardon the Interruption" all quickly came to the same conclusion. 

After all, eight of Bird's 10 draft picks have been black players.

Whether race has any bearing on it, it is obvious that the Pacers are hamstrung by their recent troubling and embarrassing behaviour. 

After the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills which occurred in 2004 when a fan threw a beer cup at Pacers player Ron Artest, Artest proceeded to charge into the crowd and beat up the defenceless fan followed by fellow players.

What ensued was one of the most disturbing moments in American sports history where there was an all-out brawl involving the fans.  

Pacers players Ron Artest, Steven Jackson, and Jermaine O’Neal were all suspended by the League and had legal action taken against them, subsequently since 2004 all three players are no longer a part of the team.

The Pacers franchise simply could not afford to risk a draft pick on any player with character issues regardless of his talent.

Naturally Rush Limbaugh had something to say about the incident. Limbaugh said that the game was "hip-hop culture on parade." Limbaugh asserted that the fight, which involved Indiana Pacers team members and Detroit Pistons team members and fans, was "gang behavior on parade minus the guns," and that NBA uniforms are "now in gang colours.

They are in gang styles." In making the comments, Limbaugh conceded that his remarks were likely to be "tagged as racist." Limbaugh also appeared to compare the brawl to the unrest in Fallujah, Iraq, suggesting that Detroit be renamed "New Fallujah, Mich."

From the Nov. 22, 2004, edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

“There is something about this hip-hop culture business. I'm not going to mention the name because there's thousands of them, but I've been watching interviews with ex-NBA players and current NBA players. You know what the common theme that I'm hearing is? "Well, I'm not going to be dissed. I'm simply not going to be disrespected. Somebody disrespects me; they're going to pay for it." Meaning, "A fan disrespects me, that fan's going to pay for it," not just another player.”

“And that comes right out of the hip-hop culture, and it's not just that. You look at NBA players and the uniforms, you don't have to go back very far. The uniforms have changed totally. They're now in gang colors. They are in gang styles. “

CALLER: This is not a new thing with the Piston fans.  (Meaning that Detroit has already had previous troubles with fans)

LIMBAUGH: I know. That is why I say call it "New Fallujah, Mich."

LIMBAUGH: “You just gotta be who you are, and I think it's time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call 'em gangs.

"You have the Laker Gang, you have the Heat Gang, you have a Timberwolf Gang [distortions of official team names], and let 'em strap up out there, and let 'em market their CDs. Instead of selling concessions, sell rap CDs out there at the concession stand.”

“All the players get involved in this, and if a fight breaks out, hey, it's what happens! It's what happens with gangs, and if a cop gets bloodied, you know, that's a bonus for the gang member that pulls that off, and let the fans, you know, go in knowingly.

"They're going in to watch the Crips and the Bloods out there wherever the neighborhood is where the arena happens to be, and be who you are.”

Clearly Limbaugh’s thoughts and opinions don’t represent his millions of listeners but his actions and slurs but once again we hear Limbaugh criticize black professional athletes, this time criticizing the NBA, a league that is 90 percent-plus black and minority on yet another of his racially motivating tirades. 

Skin-colour could be a determining factor just as easily by judging a player on his number of tattoos but players like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are honourable representatives for the NBA.

Most NBA players, the vast majority, are law-abiding citizens and not thugs at all. None of that should need to be expressed. Kevin Garnett donated over $1 million to build homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

But even with no racial motives attributed to the Pacers' decision makers, the roster has nevertheless noticeably deviated from the norm in the NBA, most successful white players in the NBA are from European countries such as Spain, Germany and Italy.

The ESPN pundits also agreed with Larry Bird, a white NBA star and Hall of Famer for the Boston Celtics that having more white stars in the NBA would benefit the league.

The majority of NBA fans are white Americans, and Skip Bayless noted on "First and 10" that having a white superstar would increase NBA popularity by giving that section of the fan base something to identify with.

However, the conclusion that Bob Kravitz comes to in his article may not be realistic.  Kravitz states "In the end, it's not about black and white, but the bottom line is printed in black and white. Wins and losses. And nothing else matters." 

But there has only been one American born white NBA All-Star since 2000, and Brad Miller has never been considered anywhere close to being an NBA superstar or even an elite player, more of an average player, who is good but not a game-changer.

The other white players that have made it to the all star game have solely been from Europe.


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