The NBA, bathrooms and an all star game …
Like most of you I have been trying to make sense of the current political and global climate we find ourselves in. We are facing a seemingly endless array of violence globally that so many cannot or simply do not want to make up their mind who and what is responsible for it and of course on the home front we are staring at an upcoming election for our presidency that to put it kindly, very surprised with the two options presented with.
Through out all of this we have always had several escapes from the media and political establishment forces that are so hell bent on dividing us. One of the few unifying forces and escapes from it all has always been sport. We never think of going to a sporting event as a conservative or a progressive expression, it is and has been for all time one of the great escapes we have from the din of the issues that are used day in and out as wedges to be driven into the cracks they can create in us.
That is not to say that the issues being politicized and argued over are not important social and moral questions worthy of debate, many in fact are. What I am saying is that sport has always had something that no politician or other leader can have and that is the ability to bring people together for a common cause where they can forget about all the other issues for a few hours on a Sunday when watching the game. Unfortunately now that the NBA has taken a stand and moved it’s all star game they have also taken the curious step of throwing away the great privilege that they had as a unifying force.
We are not talking about a Donald Sterling issue here. He was one of their owners and the issue was relevant to the league and the players in a very practical sense as one of their own had crossed all social and moral red lines of good conduct. Choosing to inject the league into any issue on the political / ideological spectrum being debated and used as wedges politically is an entirely different matter.
Individual players are free to make their own decisions about if and how they want to choose to speak out on issues of the day. Though they might want to think about the fact that their fan base is obviously much broader than any one individuals personal opinion spectrum, they are still individuals and we do not tell people in this country when or what to say and how to say it. We all understand that some players in addition to being great athletes have more going on upstairs than others and some of them are more selective when deciding what to say and what not to say. In addition, as fans our allegiance is to our team and we understand that many players will come and go and we always look past the poor behavior and indiscretions that come with some of them. We do not however afford that same pass to our teams and to the league where we spend our hard earned dollars.
The NBA by wading into the issue of LGBT bathroom rights has decided to make the safe zone we all had from the political stink we get all day long from our elected leaders and the media no longer safe for all of us. Sport was that place where every President regardless of party was invited to throw out the first pitch, sit court side at a game, the same game where we start them all off with the national anthem; in other words the games bring us together because we know we are getting away from the crap that is tearing us apart and we are unified in our passionate support for our team.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver received universal praise for his handling of the Donald Sterling issue and deservedly so. In my opinion his deciding to make the NBA an activist league is a terrible move and one that really makes me question his understanding of just what it is that makes the league so popular. If I could offer up any advice it would be to restrict the activism to issues regarding the NBA and basketball. Roger Goodell may be too much of an activist for many football fans but he seems to stay within the boundaries of football and the NFL understanding the fan base of any league is the broadest base in our society and always representing all of the spectrum on any issue even some of the unpopular parts of it. Should the league decide to boycott those states where the black lives matter people have marched chanting slogans like “pig on a roast kill a cop a day”? where will we start to draw the line? once the league decides it is in the business of addressing issues of social conscience it is a slippery slope form there. Leave the activism to the players if you must, we have a tradition of players talking stands on issues and that works fine as we relate to them as individuals like ourselves with a diverse set of views and opinions.
Something tells me when they play the NBA all star game I will be on a much needed bathroom break because I will suddenly feel full of it.