after artest-the nba and the assault on blackness-david j.leonard

“A few years with Mike Kryzwezski, Bob Knight, or any number of white NCAA coaches was seen as the answer to the influx of the hip-hop generation player. ‘The coach is similar to the White male father figure, whereas Black male athletes are like children, under the father’s control and subject to his rule,’ writes Abby Ferber. ‘It is only when they accept and lay this role that they are fully embraced and accepted as seen as non-threatening. Their bodies can be admired as long as they are perceived as controlled by White males. These athletes are then defined as the ‘good blacks’ (2007, p.20).” (92)

“The effort to exclude under-20 ballers from the NBA, while also motivated by owners not wanting to pay first-round dollars to players who might take years to develop and college programs wanting to profit from the unpaid labor of America’s top ballers, reflects a desire to push America’s best players into attending college so they can join the league having been already ‘seasoned’ and ‘domesticated’.” (102)

“According to Ian O’Connor, David Stern ‘wanted an age requirement to turn back the high school tide, and yet he found himself marketing high school players to his paying public. LeBron. T-Mac. Kobe. KG. In one breath, Stern celebrated their contributions to his game. In the next, he pledged his allegiance to the cause of stopping future LeBrons, T-Macs, Kobes and KGs from showing up in his league before age 20” (O’Connor 2005a, p.110).” (62)

i can’t lie. i had to go back into the archives and post this one before i blogged the phil jackson book about the “kobe how my ass taste” lakers-coincidentally the topic of this week’s edition of the nba hangtime podcast. i also must admit that this one coloured my reading of that one, and phil came through and in his own words confirmed his feelings about his role as coach, and the condescending attitude he has towards his players.

this period of basketball time is my “lost years”, when i was off in montrill living life and running after musicians and thangs, but i am interested in everything that happened-from the brawl to the dress code to the criminalization of the players-the author’s musing is true-in no other sport does fighting qualify you as a criminal-in real life. think of all the violence and concussions in hockey and football-but players get absolved off the ice/field-even the ones that are actually murderers. but these doods who barely know how to fight (remember when van gundy won that fight?) get brushed off as a bunch of thugs and spoiled brats? come on-like any other sports player doesn’t make millions of dollars? imagine if ball players were like the cast of friends-demanding to be paid per episode? now imagine if teachers were. the inequality of wealth is a problem, but let’s not blow it out of proportion, or focus too narrowly.

“According to the media discourse, while a problem in itself, the Palace Brawl also signified a larger issue: the growing power and influence of the hip-hop generation as represented by a group of millionaire, ghetto-raised, gangsta ballers, who not only brought the crossover, trash-talking and high-flying dunks into the league, but also ego, excess and violence. They threatened the financial viability of the league, along with the connections between fan and player. It demonstrated that hip-hop as cultural style, as swagger, as signifier of coolness, wasn’t compatible with all NBA fans. The elusive goal of racial transcendence would be impossible should the relationship with hip-hop continue because of the imagined links between hip-hop and blackness. Blackness was always just beneath the surface, a powder-keg waiting to explode the NBA’s bubble of racial neutrality. With the Palace Brawl, Artest popped the bubble; with his body lying on the scorer’s table or his (and others) fighting in the stands, blackness was in full view, requiring efforts to control and manage their racialized bodies.” (26)

“In response to falling ratings, dissipating corporate support, a deluge of publication relation’s nightmares, and unrelenting criticism from much of the media, the NBA hired Matthew Dowd, a Texas strategist who had previously worked with George W. Bush on his reelection campaign. Having successfully helped Bush find immense support within Middle America, Dowd was brought in ‘to help’ Stern ‘figure out how to bring the good ‘ol white folks back to the stands’ (Abramson 2005).” (129)

“What is striking about the discourse surrounding the player responses, beyond the erasure of their heterogeneity, is the way in which the media used players’ references to race and racism as justification for a dress code.” (133)

“Throughout the media discourse, commentators minimized, dismissed and ridiculed critics (particularly players) for inserting race where it did not belong. In citing African American support for the dress code, the universal nature of the dress code, and the fact that the code was designed to ‘help’ black players, the discourse invoked dominant rhetorical devices to deny the significance of race.” (136)

“The demonization of Allen Iverson, Stephen Jackson, and Marcus Camby as ungrateful, out-of-control hip-hop ballers (as angry and black and therefore unable to function as the desired racially transcendent players)-and the construction of David Stern as their benevolent white father working tirelessly to protect their interests demonstrate the dialectics between the dress code and race.” (140)

i mean-did more people watch carmelo’s “stop snitching” video than the one his wife posted to show that she wasn’t cheating with maino? i don’t think so. were more people focused on the cornrows and baggy jeans of yore than his ridiculous green puss-in-boots hat on all-star weekend? is david stern to blame for andrew wiggins being drafted in his granny’s suit? or joakim noah‘s ridiculous seersucker sideshow bob getup?

yes.

(obviously).

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