The Problem of Manu's Skin

Mike Wise of the Washington Post hits one out of the park today with an article about resentment around the NBA of white foreign players.

He quotes Sean Elliott:

"If he was an inner-city kid, if Manu Ginobili was from Chicago or New York, and he was bringing the game like he's bringing it now, all the players in the league would say, 'Manu is the truth.' Instead they say, 'He throws his arms, he flails.' Every series in the playoffs this year, it's been that way. Denver did not want to give him credit in the first round. Seattle, same thing. Now Detroit."

There is unabashed anti-white racism all over the league.I sat in the room a couple years ago when Kenny Smith addressed the incoming rookie class during the NBA's training session. The room included dozens of European players. But Kenny only spoke to the black Americans, and he more or less told them that foreign players were getting their jobs because they brought new fans, and increased revenues to the teams and the league.

The foreigners admitted to being taken aback. Jiri Welsch piped up in front of everyone, as did Bostjan Nachbar.

To their credit, even most of the American players thought Kenny was full of it. This is how Caron Butler reacted when I asked him about what the Jet said:

Now they're part of it. The NBA is nothing but a big fraternity, and we're all family right now. We're going to have to battle it out, we're going to have a lot of wars against each other, but we're still family.

I also once noticed this: among NBA reporters at a big event like the All-Star game, there is a pretty healthy mix of skin colors. But in a media session at one All-Star game a few years ago, the black reporters were almost all crowded around black players. Over by Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki nearly 100% of the reporters were white.

(It's not too hard to understand that in some ways. Culturally, it's not unlike French reporters crowding around Tony Parker or Chinese reporters crowding around Yao Ming. But among American reporters, it's a little sad to see. I and everybody else would be unrelenting on a white reporter who didn't like to talk to black players.)

To anyone who thinks the NBA is a league that belongs to one ethnic group or another, I say get over it.

No matter what you might have heard elsewhere, the NBA is not a league for black, white, red, blue, or green people. It is a league for winners. When Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan were the best winners around, maybe, for a while, it seemed like it was a league for black people. But up here at the top, in the most competitive league in the world, you have to earn it every day. There's no room for prejudice on winning teams. And if some other guy from some other country with some other skin color is doing it better? Well, then it's that guy's time to shine, even if he doesn't look like you.

It's wrong to judge people by the color of their skin, remember?

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.