Basketball has such a unique place in our society in that almost everyday, even in the off season, you’re going to be reminded of basketball. It is permeated throughout our society from the shoes the athletes wear, the movies (such as Lebron filming Space Jam 2 and Kyrie in Uncle Drew), Curry promoting golf and Under Armour clothing, etc. You’re much more likely to see people sporting basketball shoes than a pair of cleats. There are many athletes from other sports who convert basketball shoes into cleats. Sports in general, are no longer isolated. It’s almost impossible to not know something about players and their families. In the past they didn’t showcase it, didn’t bring it to press conferences, didn’t have social media.
During my childhood, growing up in the heyday of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, it wasn’t clear about how those players felt about politics, societal issues, or even personal matters. Now, things have changed and players have been more and more willing to voice their opinions. In the past couple years NBA championship winners, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, announced they would not be going to the White House after their championship win. When Eric Gardner tragically died, with his last words being “I can’t breathe”, players across the country wore a shirt baring that quote to bring attention to injustices of African Americans. When Trayvon Martin was killed, many athletes wore hoodies, again to make sure this story was heard and to voice their feelings on what had happened. The thing that is frustrating is that all too often, the trend in this country seem to be that black culture is idolized, celebrated, imitated, but never acknowledged. People will go and hear rap and attempt to emulate it, or mimic the lives rappers portray, but the minute a rapper says something that is “too black”, speaking about something real rather than just for entertainment, people are unwilling to take it in. It’s then called gangster rap, it’s considered violent, and it gets a push back. You have Lebron and KD, in an Uber together talking about how they felt Trump wasn’t a great president, and some people decided it was their right to tell Lebron to “shut up and dribble”. There was a complete disregard to the fact that he is a person who has the right to have an opinion. Someone decided they could go to Lebron’s home and vandalize it by spray painting the N word. Lebron spoke about the issue and said “Racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America. Hate in American, especially for African Americans is living every day, even though it is concealed most of the time. No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in American is tough.”
The point I’m trying to make is that no matter where you go in the world is you can see evidence of black culture, and part of black culture is basketball. When every rapper you see is wearing a basketball players shoes and every basketball player is listening to a rapper, you can see the culture sharing experiences. At the end of the day, basketball culture and black culture are intertwined and the unique thing they have in common is that people will celebrate you, people will idolize you, people will try to emulate you, but the minute you bring up real issues or speak about real issues, or point out real societal issues, is the minute those same people will try to bring you down. They will try to remind you that you aren’t nothing but a n*gger that happens to be rich. You have Jason Whitlock saying, “Racism is an issue in America but is primarily an issue for the poor. It’s not LeBron James’ issue, he has removed himself from the damages and the ravages of real racism.” I couldn’t disagree more.
The reason this is relevant is because no matter what happens or where I go, there will be a derogatory name for black people, and there will always be constant reminders of my perceived inferiority. This country has had a long history of ensuring black people are seen as disposable, whether that be from police action, or inaction, or overaction, or by your own shoe brand attempting to use your likeness and name in racist ads. Specifically, Adidas trying to make ads busting Harden out of a prison cell and portraying Dame Lillard as a courtroom defendant. NY Times states, “Adidas has built much of it’s name and sales through its association with black superstars.” Adidas also has Kanye, Beyoncé, Farrell, Donald Glover, and many other influential black stars in popular culture supporting their brand. The part that really bothers me is that is while they make so much money off black culture, they don’t embrace it within their organization. Out of 1700 employees, only 4.5% are black. They take our culture and brand it, without acknowledging the people behind it. And the minute you do try to say something real, they will shut you up. They just want mindless performers, without any real input from the people who’s culture they are making money off of. It shows how much we are taking advantage of. We need to do something because we contribute and are a part of the fabric of this country. It’s not okay for someone to embrace black culture, but as soon as a real issue comes up, tell us to shut up. At the end of the day, what we need to start doing is looking at black people, acknowledge our culture, thank us for our contributions, embrace us and our people, and show us some RESPEK.