It’s not the People, it’s the Premise

By David Rogers

My latest post on the NBA has generated a tremendous amount of controversy. That is not unexpected. Race has been brought to the forefront in America as it often is. Strong feelings run in both directions on the issue. I have great affection for many people in the NBA and sports in general. I am well acquainted with past team presidents, current general managers, and several current and retired players. The tenor of the article may have caused many to miss the point.

The attitude of players is sympathetic to problems in America that do exist and have existed. We do experience incidences of injustice based on race. There always have been and, unfortunately, will likely be in the future. There will always be outliers who refuse to get it. But these incidences are rare these days, contrary to some media messaging. Most adults in America would chafe at the idea of bias based on race. I am one of those adults. We know better. We do not support prejudice based on race, religion, gender, or any other criteria.

Many of the people in the league believe they need to bring awareness to the larger public, even though broad awareness of the issues is fairly ubiquitous. That is admirable. But the point is that the message being forwarded is decidedly one-sided, and if you disagree with the premise or conclusions of that message you may be vilified. The fact also follows that if we admitted that racism was in severe decline in America, one political party would be nearly out of business. It is a significant part of their platform. Thus we hear George Floyd’s tragedy in a month’s long news cycles, while we hear almost nothing about Cannon Hinnant.

It is fundamentally a tale of two perspectives. While there are incidences of race-based bias in America (as there are in every country in the world), America has also been the most accommodating land of opportunity for people of every stripe (much more so than almost any other country in the world). That is a simple historical fact. For every incidence of racial injustice, one might be able to find dozens, even hundreds, of incidences of minority success. Where is the focus on all of the great success stories? Why must we have our past sins paraded before us constantly? Who benefits from such a negative perspective?

The tiring aspect of all this is that the left takes the worst of our racial history and projects it more broadly into the fabric of the country. Somehow America has always been racist, xenophobic, etc. And further, somehow Donald Trump is the Pied Piper of all this racism and anyone who supports him or conservative values must also be a racist. I submit that such messaging is deceptive, erroneous, and indicative of a contentious and ill-fated political tool of division. I do not think players intend to reflect this but are caught in the wave of such sentiments. They mean well and feel sympathetic to the less fortunate, but may not perceive that some fans see it as a slight to the country that provided so well for them.

Most cognizant Americans are acutely aware of these issues. We are also aware that the worst-case scenario many activists paint is not realistic. The crimes of a few people in our nation should not be ascribed to all of the people or the nation as a whole. And justice usually triumphs. There may be exceptions, but they are rare. America has been gradually more and more fertile for everyone over the years. Certain political powers want us to believe that has changed and America is tragically broken (folks like Maximo Alvarez might have a word to say about that). I believe our nation’s record supports exactly the opposite conclusion.

The audience in professional sports cares about justice and equity. We know it, we believe it. Do we need to hear it everywhere, all the time? Can we discuss all sides of the issue without people being triggered or discounted? Is it even allowable to suggest that the proliferation of this one-sided messaging demands conformity and discontinuance of any dialog that has a different perspective? Let’s let sports be sports and politics be politics. If we must broadcast, the positive aspects of race and opportunity in our country deserve some play also.

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