Locked Out and Demonized:
Challenges Facing the NBA’s Black Players
by David J. Leonard | special to NewBlackman
Deron Williams made it official, signing a contract with Besiktas, a top tier team in Turkey. While not the first NBA player to sign a contract as a result of the lockout, he is clearly the most high profile (superstar) to do so thus far. Others may follow suit, with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay and Stephen Curry all noting interest in the prospects of playing overseas. Having already written on the larger implications here, in terms of both the lockout and the globalization of basketball, what is striking is how Williams’ decision to sign overseas and the possibilities from other superstars has provoked a backlash from fans and media commentators alike.
Not surprisingly the patriotism and loyalty of players has been questioned, as his been their commitment to the American fans. Similarly, players have been criticized for being greedy, whose sole motivation is to “get paid” (the fact that players were locked out by the owners often gets OBSCURED – ignored – within these discussions). Yet, what has been most striking is the systematic questioning about these players willingness to play overseas. Recycling longstanding arguments about athletes as pampered, over indulged, and spoiled, a charge that has commonplace against black athletes, these commentators both question the willingness of these players to play in non-NBA conditions all while questioning their mental toughness.
For example, Berry Tramel, in “NBA players’ threat to go overseas is weak,” seems to question the seriousness of threat, asking if, “The players want us to believe they’ll sign on to play in venues and under conditions wholly inferior to the NBA standard? In case no one has noticed, the NBA is lavish living. First-class travel. First-class accommodations. First-class officiating. First-class training staffs.” Similarly, David Whitley, with “NBA stars would get rude awakening playing overseas” further emphasizes how the NBA lifestyle that players are accustomed to, would not be available to them in Europe or China. “It would also give players a taste of how 90 percent of the hoop world lives. It isn’t finger-lickin’ good. There aren’t a lot of charter flights, much less extra-wide leather seats or five-star meals.” In “NBA lockout causing European exodus?”
Umar Ali, while acknowledging the possibility of NBA players going overseas, focused on the horrid conditions there and the spoiled nature of the players themselves.
Though the accommodations pale in comparison to what the average player receives while playing in the NBA – five-star hotel rooms, luxury vehicle transports and catered food compared to second rate rooms on the road, cramped buses and whatever is provided for sustenance – there is still enough to sway players to consider making the transition.
Ali seems to be alone with the majority of the commentaries depicting today’s players as high maintenance divas who would not accept the conditions overseas. Skip Bayless, on “First and Ten,” scoffed at the prospect of the NBA stars playing in China or Europe longer than a week “because they will not like it. They will not like the conditions; they will not like the travel; they will not like the food, the TV they aren’t able to watch.” His “debate” adversary, Dan Graziano, not surprisingly agreed, adding “The lifestyle these guys lead over here . . . if they think that will follow them to Europe or Asia . . . it will be a very short period of time before they realize they were mistaken.”
Continue reading at NewBlackMan: Locked Out and Demonized: Challenges Facing the NBA’s Black Players.