Opinion: What in the world is wrong with the NBA?

by Peter Heck · Jul 17th, 2020 5:53 pm
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Last Updated Jul 20th, 2020 at 3:10 pm

Was it Commissioner Adam Silver and his devotion to left-wing political causes above the promotion of the sport that did it?

Or maybe it was ESPN's fateful decision to transform nightly highlight shows into an MSNBC/CNN mash of grievance-mongering commentaries.

Then again, it could have been headline-seeking coaches like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, who like schoolgirls competing for the attention of the varsity quarterback are relentlessly seeking to out-woke the other before the cameras. Or maybe all of those are just consequences of the reality rather than the cause.

But whatever it was, the National Basketball Association has become an epic embarrassment.

Please understand, this isn't a column urging a boycott of NBA games. I'm not going to boycott them; in fact, I'm eager for the games to start again so that sports talk can again be about clutch performances and buzzer-beaters rather than social posturing and Twitter feeds.

I enjoy the sport of basketball and love seeing it played at the highest level, so of course I'll be watching the NBA. That, however, doesn't preclude me from cringing when its stars seem obsessively committed to making abject fools of themselves. I may not have any desire to futilely attempt to force professional ball players to think like me in order to get my entertainment dollars. But I do have the desire to shame those with such an influential, high-profile platform when they refuse to think at all.

And that's precisely where we are right now as one story after another emerging from the NBA community is more hypocritical, morally repugnant, racist, anti-Semitic, and boneheaded than the last.

LeBron James, the de facto face of the league, is about as privileged a person as you can imagine. He has been since high school. But that hasn't stopped the second greatest player in the league's history from injecting himself into stories about injustice and mistreatment. It hasn't stopped him from taking the side of a fellow privileged elite, white NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, who was suspended from ESPN for sending a profane email to a sitting U.S. Senator.

What provoked the Woj F-bomb? Senator Hawley questioned why the NBA was allowing Black Lives Matter statements on uniforms but not statements for other social causes like supporting the military, the police force, or oppressed citizens in Hong Kong. You know, the very kind of questions a diligent NBA reporter would be asking themselves.

And about those jerseys. Why did it take public outrage for the NBA to change their custom jersey-making system to allow #FreeHongKong or #FreeUighurs when the same system already permitted jerseys to be created to read #KillCops and #BurnJews?

Uighur Muslims are being systematically rounded up in China, heads shaved, and forced onto trains bound for labor camps.

This is unfolding like Holocaust 2.0, which might explain why the NBA also banned the jersey slogan "Never Again." Because LeBron, Silver, Popovich, Kerr, and the gang make a boatload of money off their Chinese brand, their moral backbone becomes somewhat stunted. Justice indeed.

Of course, voicing concerns to members of the NBA about a second holocaust might fall flat given that there is a vile strain of anti-Semitism that has been exposed in their midst.

When actor Nick Cannon praised the notoriously anti-Semitic leader Louis Farrakhan, and also made his own flagrantly racist remarks about white people and Jews, two former all-stars tweeted their apparent affirmation. First was Dwyane Wade who, with a black power fist, praised Cannon for "leading."

After an onslaught of criticism, including being informed that Farrakhan had voiced a particular antipathy for the LGBT lifestyle that Wade has embraced on behalf of his transgender son, Wade backtracked. But what exactly in Cannon's remarks attracted him in the first place?

Meanwhile, about the time Wade was hitting reverse, Allen Iverson showed up to post on Instagram of his own private meeting with Farrakhan.

Yes, he said "#LoveConquersHate" while posing with a man who has denied the Holocaust and repeatedly called Jews "satanic." Hours later, Iverson was also backpedaling.

And even as I'm writing this column, NBA star Chris Bosh begins trending on Twitter. Why? Because he wrote an essay about how my home state of Indiana is racist because we like the movie Hoosiers.

Hoosiers is about a team of white guys who played the right way taking down the City Boys, who just so happened to be Black. And any time you travel to Indiana for an NBA game, you're faced with the same narrative: This is basketball country. Sure, many of the players on the Pacers were Black, but have you ever seen the crowd in Bankers Life Fieldhouse? S***'s as white as a Trump rally.

To be fair, Bosh went on to criticize every NBA city for having too many white fans, not just Indianapolis.

I'm beginning to think that all the "shut up and dribble" talk was less about silencing NBA folks and more about saving them from themselves.

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