40 Acres and a Basketball

Jose VilsonJose

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.