Race & Basketball

While many people thought that the NBA had magically cured itself of racism and harmful discrimination with the ending of the Donald Sterling saga, another story came to the surface this last week. Bruce Levenson, the controlling owner of the Atlanta Hawks, announced that he would be selling his portion of the team after self-reporting a racist email he sent to other team executives in 2012 detailing some issues with the Hawks’ attendance at games. The following are some excerpts from the email:

“My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.”

“And many of our black fans don’t have the spendable income…”

“I have also balked when every fan picked out of crowd to shoot shots in some time out contest is black. I have even b****** that the kiss cam is too black.”
While Levenson has declared that he is stepping away from all roles with the Hawks, including selling his portion of the team, the issue of racism will continue to plague the NBA. As of 2013, approximately 81% of players in the NBA were minorities; only 19% of players are white. Additionally, 43% of head coaches are African-American, 36% of league personnel are minorities, and 54% of the national fan base in the United States is made up of minorities.

However, 98% of majority owners, the people who own the teams with their millions and billions of dollars in investment, in the NBA are white. The only minority — Michael Jordan. (Check out the infographic from FiveThirtyEight below for all the breakdowns):

This glaring statistic, that 98% of owners in the NBA are white, contributes the most to racial tensions in the league because it demonstrates that in the NBA, white owners are still more powerful than the best minority athletes in the world and have the ability to control minorities. This whole dynamic takes us back to a time when many in society would have tolerated and even accepted the remarks of Donald Sterling and Bruce Levenson.

While Adam Silver, the current NBA Commissioner, has acted nobly in his actions against Donald Sterling and in steering the process for Bruce Levenson to leave the Atlanta Hawks, it is ridiculous to assume that racism has all of a sudden left the NBA. The NBA has positioned itself for racism and harmful discrimination to persist throughout its many sectors and I have no doubt that we will be hearing these kinds of stories for years to come. As the NBA confronts these issues, I challenge Adam Silver and the NBA to ensure that the owners, managers, coaches, and players are incredibly race conscious in all of their decisions and actions. Now is the time to rise to the occasion and destroy the harmful connection between race and basketball.

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Originally published at evanltraylor.wordpress.com on September 10, 2014.

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