Let's say there was no color issue; let's say everyone in America was green. Green like the dollar bill. Green with envy.
Now let's say there's a group of people, all green, all American, standing at a bus stop on their way to work. The bus pulls up, driver opens the door and the bus driver says, "Good morning everyone! You all know the drill ... dark green people to the back, light green people sit in the front."
At some point we all knew it would come to this. But it didn't have to come to this. The "R." Racism. The word. Groundhogged it's ugly little head again. This time out of the mouth of Jermaine O'Neal. His words inexact: "Racism is part of the NBA's [David Stern's] reason to implement an age restriction on entering the league." I'm paraphrasing. But the point is out. And once out, it stays out, like the cork on the Verve Cliquot.
Somewhere in Toronto, outside the U.S., Jermaine O'Neal got caught off guard, and caught up. Someone asked him a question. An American question. Unparaphrasing. "Is it because you guys are black that the league is trying to put an age limit on the draft?"
The question demanded an answer. A real one. Not one of those scripted, toeing-the-company-line responses. So Jermaine gave the Charles Barkley answer. The Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman-on-Larry Bird answer. He gave the answer that many needed to hear, but hundreds were afraid to say. For lack of misunderstanding and misquotes, O'Neal basically called David Stern's intent to mandate an age requirement for induction into the NBA race related.
Then came the drama.
Everyone from Stephen A. to Mike & Mike in the Morning found a way to disagree with O'Neal's comment and assessment.
"Racism in the NBA?" you could hear them say. "Never. That's un-American."
Most didn't understand where O'Neal was coming from straight felt that he is more than off base with his opinion. They voiced through phone calls on talk radio that he is dead wrong. One even went so far as to call his comment "stupid." Not necessarily a reflection of O'Neal the person ... but damn.
Let's define stupid. Stupid is Barry Bonds still working out with Greg Anderson. Stupid is Mike Tyson still fighting for a title shot. Stupid is the Lakers not getting at least one All-Star in return for Shaq.
An NBA superstar finding something racially motivated when the principals involved are specifically of one race? That's conscious. And in an era when apathy runs through the DNA of black athletes everywhere, the fact that one would even pose the question should get him Nobel Prize recognition.
Dr. King often said, "A man that doesn't stand for something will fall for anything." And while no one is saying Jermaine O'Neal is the MLK of the NBA, his wherewithal to approach the subject should be appreciated more than anything, if not applauded.
|Jason Whitlock thinks an age limit in the NBA is the best thing for the league, and the players. Cast your vote on the issue.|
The problem is ... he isn't.
To know him, you'd understand. He's very soft-spoken, quiet, almost humble at all times. But he doesn't shy away from two things: the truth, and what he believes. He asks questions. That's what we sometimes don't see or hear. We jump to conclusions, when really he's simply a young man asking the world questions questions that he'd love to have answered.
Months ago, he asked this one: "What Would You Do?" He asked the question in response to the situation that got him suspended for a third of the NBA season. He never said he was right. He never backed away from his actions. But he did ask us, asked anyone who wasn't him at that particular moment in the Palace at Auburn Hills last November, to put ourselves in his Shox there, to see the situation from his vantage point, to process the scene in our minds. And then ask ourselves ... what would we do?