40 Acres and a Basketball

Jose Vilson Jose 7 Comments

MeloWadeLeBronThis weekend is probably one of my favorite weekends of the year, as it commemorates … the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. Every year, before I even think of the holiday dedicated to former slaveholders and rapists, I imagine who’ll win the various contests for the All-Star Weekend. I’m particularly interested in the the 3-Point contest, the actual game, and Slam Dunk contest (in that order). (Update: I’m only excited about the game, now.) I just get excited when I see the East and West rosters simply because these players typically never play with each other, and watching the dynamics between the players lets me imagine how I want to build my franchise in NBA2K7 or even if it’s possible to have a live version of NBA Street. That’s besides my point, though.

This weekend also highlights Las Vegas as a burgeoning city full of big franchise sports promise. Detractors still ask: who wants to have a franchise somewhere where the people inside the casinos can (and will) manipulate what happens on the field / court? However the situation plays out now seems the best time for Vegas to get its hands wet with a “Big Four” pro sports team.

However, no sooner than the thought of a legitimate pro team in Vegas crossed my mind did this breaking news come in my lap:

I don’t want to see some gangbangers or hip-hoppers knocking over a jewelry store at Fashion Show mall.

Oscar Goodman

Who said it? If you said the mayor (Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman), you’re one of the people who doesn’t want to see this happen any more than I do. I bring this up because I find it interesting how quickly these men try to separate themselves from an image that evidently propels the sports image to the forefront of mainstream culture, namely hip-pop. Secondly, I also see another case of improper stereotyping on the part of the mayor.

After all, if one takes a glance at the top 20-30 players in the league, none of them strike the average fan as a “gang-banger” or a “hip-hopper.” A couple, namely Carmelo Anthony and Jermaine O’Neal have been in recent scuffles on the court, but that’s nothing compared to the slanderous slights Mayor Goodman’s making against Black men. Even at an event that recognizes the accomplishments of these athletes, the negative connotations of his statement alone sends a clear message to Black men athletes everywhere that they are still subject to the prejudice whims of powerful White men anywhere.

Certainly, the same fan base that voted these athletes in can identify the parallels between them and the rappers they adore. Even more so, when they watch basketball, they’ll turn on their MP3 players and listen to the same rap these players listen to. Yet, when it comes to actually having them in their residence or in their proximity, I’d venture to say that some wouldn’t want anything to do with them. Most of the NBA-related merchandise out there has a hip-hop influence and has a stamp of approval from some “urban audience” (read: they went to the hood and asked if that looked dope). Hence, for the majority of the consumer population, it becomes easy to select everything they want from these interwoven culture (the basketball and the rap skills), and filter out the “thuggery” and the “violent” language.

As I sit here, I think to how preposterous it is for such a statement to be made, and how he can codify Black men by using these labels, and in the process, sending a signal to the profitable sponsors of these events that their “privilege” and “identity” is intact within Las Vegas. This is not to say that the Black community as a whole does not have its issues, but I’m confident that these “gang-bangers” would more readily drop their guns and “bling” before the people who create the Las Vegas nightlife drop their own “local charms.”

As long as this sort of bigotry exists, there could be an entire field of highly-paid (mostly) Black men on the field and we’ll still live in the legacy of slavery.

jose, who stopped short of writing a book on this …

p.s. – Mr. Goodman has a history with gangbangers, as he was a defense lawyer for mobsters all over Vegas. Hmph!

p.p.s. – Miami for the next few days. Leave some love.

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 7

  1. talda

    i just think it’s HI-larious that the mayor of las vegas is up in arms when his city was essentially founded by “gangbangers.”

    though i watched the first half of the all-star game for the first time in years. shock of all shocks.

  2. angelamichelle

    lawd! first tim hardaway, toni’s subpar half-time performance, the horrible defeat of the east and kobe being MVP… now the mayor’s a bigot in “distant” relation to all this? this all-star weekend sucked big time for me! well all except that whole detroit winning the skills competition thing, but i digress.

    this is really a bad look for goodman, considering LV’s history with the organized crime industry that he obviously forgot his involvement with. *cough* did i say that? what i meant to say was this is a very bad look for LV because their highest representative seems to not mind crime as long as it doesn’t have a black face attached to it in some way. *smh*

  3. * chanel.

    Yeah, I usually get excited for the slam dunk contest and the 3 pointer thing. Unfortunately I’m not into baskteball enough to know how much these 2 events really matters other than bragging rights I suppose?

    PS – This may sound like a silly question but, how do I RSS feed my posts? LOL. Are you available to email me that por favor?

  4. Kika

    Just showing some love…enjoy the sunshine…you get to enjoy the weather i missed…but i ain’t mad at ya…that whole mayor comment is bs however not surprising…i think that’s the sad part…

  5. Auron

    I’ve been to the Fashion Show mall… Let me tell you is is N-I-C-E but honestly a group of “hip hoppers” robbing that place is the last thing the major should be worried about.

    Statically speaking, I would expect that the legalized prositution in Las Vegas would bring in more potential theives then one NBA team ever could.

    The major should be more up to date on the statistics about his city, the crime rate, and the true image of the NBA and it’s fans.

    If he isn’t… then what is blinding him to the truth?

    I believe the major is speaking on behalf of the majority of the high end store owners that simply don’t want “Blacks” in their stores… hence the stupidity in his comment.

    Great post. Write more my brother.

  6. Yaa

    Really hated the media coverage for the All Star Weekend. The reports of people acting like animals & causing all kinds of chaos reminded me of the reports during Katrina.

    I had close friends that went. They said that it was crowded and people definitely showed their arses but that overall it was cool.

    I remember years ago seeing coverage from Mardi Gras and seeing those white folks act an ass! But I guess they were just partying.

    Pot calling the kettle black….THE MAYOR OR VEGAS SAYING HE DOESN”T WANT GANGSTERS….FUNNY!

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