Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When sports and ideology collide

Responding to Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, whose open letter about the departure of his franchise's biggest star drew more national attention than he likely anticipated, Jesse Jackson replied by proclaiming that Gilbert's "mean, arrogant and presumptuous" comments placed LeBron James in unnecessary danger, and that he views the 25-year-old Ohio native as a "runaway slave."

Says Jackson, "[Gilbert] speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers... His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality."  Jackson also claims that Gilbert's open letter was an attack on all NBA players and added that he should face a "challenge" from both the league and the players' association.

Gilbert was fined $100,000 on Monday for his comments, though the always fascinating Roland S. Martin -- a new school version of Jesse Jackson -- wondered if the penalty was extensive enough.  Having initially declined to touch upon the matter, NBA commissioner David Stern later criticized both sides for the debacle.

Whether Jackson was attempting to capitalize on a mini-wave of momentum that resulted from another epic snafu by Mel Gibson is debatable, but it seems the ESPN-produced LeBron-a-thon did little to lift the image of the presumed heir apparent to Michael Jordan's throne (currently occupied by Kobe Bryant).  If the round of boos he received from New York Knicks fans at Carmelo Anthony's wedding last Saturday doesn't demonstrate that, the welcome James will undoubtedly endure at each of the Miami Heat's 41 road games will.

Now take this situation in tandem with an overlooked statement made in a recent column by Kansas City Star and FoxSports.com contributor Jason Whitlock about a completely different event:

"The World Cup narrows our view and, more than any other sporting event, baits us to give in to nationalism, jingoism and racism.  It’s not the Olympics.  Not everyone is invited.  And no one pretends the month of World Cup play is a reason to celebrate and respect the world’s numerous cultures.  The World Cup owes much of its popularity to hate.  It’s the anti-Olympics.  It’s an excuse for bigots to mask their biases in sporting patriotism."
-- from "Time to put that 'miracle' on ice"; June 24, 2010

As if he senses that a certain carte blanche on all things racial is about to be lost, Whitlock went more than an extra mile to mischaracterize an international tournament that has been celebrated in practically every nation (except the United States) for 80 years.  Rowdy fanatics notwithstanding, most zealots don't require such a grand forum to express a prejudice that would exist even if the World Cup did not.  But don't tell that to Whitlock unless you care to be labeled a racist.

Keep in mind that Jason Whitlock, who has written several columns expressing a belief that his former high school teammate Jeff George (million-dollar arm, ten-cent head) is still deserving of an NFL tryout, also claims the NCAA went easy on Duke in the national basketball tournament pairings last March because "Duke (and North Carolina to a lesser degree) score higher on the old 'eyeball' test.  Fewer tattoos and more white guys.  I just made many of you uncomfortable.  Sorry.  But it’s a fact. ... Coach K[rzyzewski] and his band of Boys Next Door are the Great White Hopes of Hoops.  Three of Duke’s five starters are white.  Their top two scorers are white."

The Blue (Or is it White?) Devils, for the record, won their fourth national championship soon after Whitlock's column was published.  And it was earned in one of the best title games in recent memory -- television ratings were up 34% from the year before -- against another squad full of "Boys Next Door," the Butler University Bulldogs.

Pity those who place too much worth in how well an individual puts a leather ball through an iron hoop.  Sports are entertainment and little else.  Yet the relevance in these matters is found in a mentality that isn't necessarily mainstream, but is far-reaching nevertheless.

When Boston sports radio personality Fred "Toucher" Toettcher -- as White and seemingly unathletic as they come -- likened Tim Tebow's NFL draft party last April to "some kind of Nazi rally" because the gathering was "so lily-white," it exhibits a hypersensitive and increasingly pervasive disposition that allows the race pimp to dominate and causes the less informed to yield.

As the aforementioned Jason Whitlock wrote, I just made many of you uncomfortable.  Sorry.  But it’s a fact.

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