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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Problem with America    

I think can be kind of neatly summed up here. Now, I'm not sure that organizing against gay marriage should be on the same register as hate speech; they are pretty different activities. But I do think it's actually reflecting something about the way this country works that a guy like Hardaway can be villified ad nauseum for expressing an opinion that probably 90% of professional sports players hold, while the NBA can just say, "oh, it's not the same thing" about the new owners of the Sonics. "That was bigotry, this is political contribution."

Hardaway at least provided the opportunity for a conversation, a correction. He blew it, which means that he said what he's said to nearly all of his former teammates at one point or another to the media. But the guys who are actually working to limit the life-possibilities of gay people, they're just expressing their politics. “We do not investigate or compile lists of political and charitable contributions of our owners and players.” I think that's good, to a large degree, although you can bet if it came to light that someone had been donating to some explicitly racist organization you would be hearing a different story. Again, I'm not sure that's inappropriate; I'm not sure what we gain by making anti-gay-marriage positions politically illegitimate--probably just a lot of disaffected Christians screaming about how they're being discriminated against...wait, how is that different from what we already have? Anyway, the interesting thing to me is the dichotomy. With these two events together, how can it be that Hardaway is being treated like a total pariah and these other activities are considered completely legitimate?

This better than anything explains to me why I don't agree with Lehr that the interview he posted a few days ago is irrelevant, or fails to do anything besides prove Hardaway is a bigot (as if the world were so easily divided between bigots and not-bigots). Hardaway expressed a lot of things that people can talk about, really opened himself up. Do I respect where he's coming from? No, but I know it's the same way an awful lot of people feel. And I know that, sitting here right now, I believe we would all be a better served these media blitzes had more to do with actions and policies than words. Take it back 50 years and imagine a situation where you had a white football player who got caught saying some really racist, compared with an NFL owner that also owns a whites-only hotel chain in the South. Who deserves the media attention? Or maybe more comparable, take two white racist golfers, back when Augusta wasn't officially desegregated. One says to the media that he hates black people. The other manages his public image perfectly but donates to a group dedicated to keeping Augusta for only white men. I think we're all a lot better served by the first guy; he brings these things to light, let's us recognize them and talk about them. It's that second guy that's really dangerous.

That's all I'm saying. The Hardaways of the world will be who they will be, and of course they need to be criticized. But I don't see the point in Hardaway's career being over. And we should all recognize that if his career is over, it's not because he hates gay people. His prejudice there is real but ultimately unexceptional in America today. His career is over because he's a PR risk to the NBA. And until actual organizing to limit the life-choices of any group of people is a bigger PR risk to the NBA than someone's off the cuff prejudiced remark, we're not getting anywhere.


  • Yup. It's never that the person felt that way, it's that they said it in the media. What's punished is the act of saying it, the stupidity of opening the can of worms. Do and think whatever you want, but for God's sake don't talk about it. Don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue.

    What's more likely... reprimanding owners for bigotry, or fining Mark Cuban a million bucks for calling the league out on allowing it? I'd like to see Cuban test those waters. Der Fuhrer would be in a position where his choices are a) fining Cuban for attacking the league, but terrible while doing it, and b) doing nothing, thus admitting his complicity. Checkmate, bitches.

    Of course, there's the small matter of the league commissioner being a representative of ownership. As soon as he starts attacking owners (not named Cuban) he will start hearing "retirement" rumors. Powerful as Stern is, that power does not extend to ownership. It's all well and good for a peon like Hardaway to be nicked, but he'll never go after the hand that feeds.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 1:08 PM  

  • a) fining Cuban while looking terrible while doing it


    By Blogger Jeff, at 1:09 PM  

  • I think he'd fine Cuban in a heartbeat over that.

    Also, I don't blame anyone in particular for this, certainly not Stern, though he is prone to this kind of behavior. It's systemic.

    By Blogger Jesse, at 3:18 PM  

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