(David Stern, NBA slumlord.)

The Vancouver Courier’s Mark Hasiuk is either being particularly obnoxious, slightly racialist, or highly selective when it comes labeling an entire sport, in this case, the NBA, as “America at its worst.” (It’s likely bits and pieces of all three.) This case is getting a bit of attention on the interwebs this morning, because it’s his theory behind why the league did not succeed in Vancouver with the Grizzlies:

Basketball traditionalists (older white guys) blame the overwhelming influence of hip hop culture in the NBA. But they’re wrong.

Hip hop, a cultural movement spawned in 1970s New York, has been dead for years.

It sold its soul to corporate sleaze merchants, who repackage black music for a white suburban consumer base.

Nope, the remnants of hip hop–flamboyant chauvinism, jailhouse lingo, black ink tattoos–didn’t kill the NBA. It was New York lawyers like Stern, who cashed in on the athletic ability of young black men while ignoring the social realities of basketball in America.

According to a New York Times report, more than 70 per cent of black American children are born out of wedlock. Most NBA players hail from poor neighbourhoods–and despite token college careers–graduate from broken public school systems. They are often ill-equipped to handle multi-million-dollar contracts, or the expectations of a community desperate for positive male role models. To be fair, the NBA, like other professional sports leagues, is a business. And it’s not responsible for the endemic problems of black America. But considering basketball’s influence on black popular culture, the NBA has a responsibility to produce a “positive” product, not the ghetto garbage we see today.

I have to admit that this tactic kind of confuses me: he’s denigrating an entire class of athlete via their endorsements and appearance and blaming Stern and the league for riding that image to the bank. I still think these kinds of critiques that take cracks at the players for having tattoos, cornrows, etc. and more of an individual focus are misguided in the sense that the NBA has always marketed individual stars as soon as it got the guys like Magic, Michael, and Bird to do that with. Also, expansion and relocation has kind of diluted both the talent pool of teams and the regional focus of teams. It’s no surprise that the league markets individuals, because the appeal of the teams themselves, to non-NBA fans, is hyper-local.

The problem is that Hasiuk does kind of come off as the old white guy who notes in the beginning of the excerpt I quoted. So much of this is because NBA players are visible in a way that baseball, football, and hockey players aren’t in terms of uniforms; everyone gets to see in full what they don’t like and run with it.

Also: you’re not gonna get any points with me if you’re gonna link Allen Iverson as someone who doesn’t hustle and want to win. He may not play great defense, he may need the ball a bit more than you’d like — but that’s a guy who plays hard, every time I watch him.

NBA: a ghetto gutter run by money grubbers
[Vancouver Courier]