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Commentary & Opinion

Herbert London: Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is NBA

L’affaire Sterling is nearing an end. Almost every sentient human being is aware of Don Sterling’s rancid racist comments. He has been banned from the NBA forever and he is being forced to sell his team, the Los Angeles Clippers. All of this is known. Adam Silver, Commissioner of the NBA, has been heralded for his quick, and “appropriate” action. The legendary Michael Jordan summarized the view of players and owners by noting: “As an owner, I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views. As a fellow player, I am completely outraged. There is no room in the NBA – or anywhere else – for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed.”

“No room in the NBA…for…racism,” the words are headlined in neon. But is this true? Hypocrisy, thy name is NBA. How do Jordan’s words and the commentary of other players square with reality?
There isn’t an executive in the NBA who did not know about Sterling’s reprehensible behavior. The lynching finally occurred, but it might well have occurred any time in the last five years except for a willingness to excuse his toxic behavior.
Arguably the most egregious example of hypocrisy was the hiring of Drake as the host of the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. Here is a rap performer who continually uses the “n” word for blacks and contends that woman are good for only one thing, “f_king.” Does Michael Jordan approve of these lyrics? How about the NBA Commissioner?
Spike Lee, the filmmaker and super fan of the NBA, has been employed as a spokesman for the league, even though he has made notorious comments of a racial variety about Fort Greene, Brooklyn and its gentrification by mostly white residents. 
Jay-Z is not only an entertainer and cultural icon, he is part owner of the Brooklyn Nets. Yet he incessantly used racist lyrics in his rap routines and misogynistic descriptions that one wouldn’t use in polite company. But where is the outrage of NBA owners? 
Jalen Rose, former NBA player and ESPN analyst, described black players at Duke as Uncle Toms because they used discernible English. He blamed his comments on “the Detroit coming out of me.” Is that an explanation? 
So the NBA hung Sterling from the highest rim in America with just about everyone applauding his public execution. But where is the concern about racism in so many NBA actions? Is racism only white versus black? Is it true, as Spike Lee has suggested, that blacks cannot be racist?
Hypocrisy, as La Rouchfoucaud contended, is the tribute vice pays virtue. In the case of the NBA, virtue is selective. Racism should be wrong, period. It doesn’t only apply to eighty year old misguided miscreants. It applies as well to the African-American players, rap artists and even those anointed by President Obama as cultural icons. If the NBA were a stand-up league, it would respond to racism in its ranks as it responded to Sterling.
I am not counting on the dawning of a new day, but forgive me when I examine with suspicion the self-congratulations of the NBA. It is one thing to do the right thing, yet quite another when the right position is ignored on some occasions and exercised in others.

Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries atwww.londoncenter.org


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