It’s Bigger Than Jason Collins –

It's Bigger Than Jason Collins - POPSspot | POPSspot

It’s Bigger Than Jason Collins

By David J. Leonard On May 5, 2013

Special to  POPSspot | POPSspot

One of the time honored recent traditions within NBA media culture is the television shot of a players’ partner nervously watching “her man” on the court. Often deployed during the playoffs, this gaze adds to both the humanity and importance of the game. With Kobe Bryant, especially in the aftermath of Colorado, his kissing of his partner and his kids as he walked to the locker room served as an important moment to humanize him within the heteronormative (and marriage obsessed) imagination.

Jason Collins’ announcement hopefully paves a pathway where he or others can kiss their partner during halftime; his announcement hopefully marks a moment where a national television audience can bare witness to a nervous, anxious, and adoring male partner supporting his man. The reserved privilege for heterosexuals within the NBA has been challenged with the announcement. As was the denied ability for these players/men/ national role models to be themselves, to be visible amid the uber visible world of American sports. Saeed Jones made this clear:

Add to this that in a world where a narrow construction of masculinity, defined by physicality, (hetero)sexuality, and brutality is both celebrated and required, one hopes that Collins’ announcement opens up this space where simultaneously deconstructing the vary assumptions that have resulted in the “masculinity box.”

Yet, its bigger than Jason Collins.

While America loves symbolic change, has used Collins to celebrate itself as “evolving” and “progressing” toward a “more perfect union,” this Sports Illustrated article doesn’t mark the end to homophobia. Just as the election of Barack Obama didn’t mark the end of racial profiling, housing discrimination, racism within the criminal justice system and a system based in/on white supremacy, Jason Collins doesn’t mark the end of homophobia.

One has to wonder how many homophobic and racist jokes were cracked in America’s dorms and boardrooms while we celebrating “progress.” Clearly Jason Collins’ announcement did not mark the end of homophobia or usher in a new era on twitter. In the end, Jason Collins’ announcement highlights the importance TO CONTINUE to combat bigotry, institutional discrimination, and systemic generated privilege. It doesn’t mark the end of struggle.

From It’s Bigger Than Jason Collins – POPSspot | POPSspot.

It is the media’s fault: Hatin the Spurs

I only root for one team: the Lakers.  To root for another team feels like a betrayal.  I also don’t root against teams unless they are playing the Lakers; that is pure haterism.  My love of the game, and my passion for basketball has nothing to do with hating on other teams.  Yet, I find myself increasingly wanting to root against the Spurs.  And it has nothing to do with the Spurs per se (although their clothing game leaves something to be desired) but rather the media discourse that surrounds them.  My increasing disdain for them is not so much about their incessant pick-n-roll offense or the endless 3s they shoot, but the media praise of exceptionalism.

Greg Doyel is the perfect example of this.  He recently penned, “Forget thrilling: Boring consistency may win Spurs a fifth NBA title”:

They win because that’s what they do. It’s who they are. Latrell Sprewell and Kenyon Martin and Rasheed Wallace and even LeBron circa 2007 swing hard and wild. They grip it and rip it and entertain fans by visiting spots all over the course. The Spurs don’t do any of that. They keep it in the fairway, hit the greens, don’t turn the ball over. They win the NBA Finals.

You could try to talk to the Spurs about what happened Thursday night, but you won’t get very far. They don’t say much, which is their right. Some guys, some franchises, live for the camera. They may pretend they don’t like the media attention, but they show up for press conferences in capri pants and Urkel glasses. They want that attention off the floor, because for whatever reason all the attention on the floor isn’t enough. That’s the Heat.

This is the Spurs: They come to press conferences with nothing interesting to wear, nothing interesting to say and no apologies to make about either. Tim Duncan was asked Friday about the promise Tony Parker had once made to him, about getting him back to the NBA Finals, and Duncan just nodded: Your point? So the point, Duncan was told, was that Parker had said it and now he has done it, and so has Duncan ever reminded Parker about the promise, or thanked him for delivering?  They just play, this whole team. The right pass. Right shot. Right defensive rotation. Maybe it doesn’t make for great TV. Maybe it should. Maybe the Spurs are the most admirable team in the NBA today — a team so comfortable with itself, it believes winning a game is the most interesting thing possible.

The only thing missing from the article is a quote from Billy Hoyle (White Man can’t jump) when he said, “A white man wants to win first, look good second. A black man wants to look good first, win second.”  Dog whistles or just pure screams? Given the NBA discourse, and the ways that race, nation, and identity operate, the Spurs are being imagined as exceptional and different from the league’s predominantly black players.  Evident by ubiquitous media representations of Spurs as “the very incarnation of humility” (Fareed, 2006, p. 57) and a widely circulated narrative that consistently imagines them as a team defined by “hard work, self-sacrifice, and the honor in labor in order to secure a piece of the American Dream” (Fareed, 2006, p.58), the celebrations from the likes of Doyel and Dan Wetzel are ripe with racial, nation, and gendered meanings. According to Dave Zirin, “Athletes in the eyes of many fans are too spoiled, too loud, too ‘hip-hop, too tattooed, too cornrowed – all of which translates to players are ‘too black’” (Zirin 2004).  Hard to think that the media does not share this same disdain and discomfort?

Within the NBA, the black body regard functions as “a site of spectacle,” as “a potential measure of evil, and menace,” necessitating containment and control (Denzin, 2001, p. 7).  As such, the racial signifies attached to the Spurs (and those attached to the Heat) derive its meaning from the ways in which blackness is represented on and off the court.

Nate Taylor, with “For Spurs, Every Game is a Global Summit,” reiterates the often-uttered praised for the Spurs and international players as a whole that emphasizes culture and values:

For R. C. Buford, San Antonio’s general manager, having the most international players in N.B.A. history was not necessarily done by design. For years, he has worked with Coach Gregg Popovich to build a team that fits Popovich’s system, which emphasizes teamwork and selflessness. These concepts may be easier to sell to players who learned the game far from the hype that can distort the development of fundamental basketball in the United States (ht @jacobjbg)

With ease, the Spurs yet again becomes a moment to posit a “model minority” discourse where the “nonblack” and international NBA players reflect the desired qualities of humility, teamwork, and fundamental play long reserved for whites within a sporting imagination.  Who needs facts when you have a compelling narrative.  Never mind, LeBron’s intellectual mastery of the game; never mind the unselfishness of Heat players or the hardwork of every NBA player.    Never mind, Manu’s questionable shot selection or Tony Parker’s tendency to dribble out the entire shot clock (or fact that he is a shooting PG) or the Spurs up-temp style of ball, the Spurs have come to embody the antithesis of ballers, hip-hop, and blackness  within the NBA imagination.

These comments should also give us pause at sporting level because the celebration of Spurs as being all about winning, about team and championships, compared to the Heat, is laughable given that the Spurs haven’t won a title in 5 years.  This year their ethos and focus matters but what happened last year? The year before; and the one before that?  The Heat have been in the NBA finals three straight seasons so what gives?  What about the Lakers’ over the last 2 decades?  And even the Bulls, who were also about the show, who were known for their enjoyment of life, found ways to dominate?

While I likely wont root for the Heat or even against the Spurs, the likes of Gregg Doyle and their rhetorical drooling about the Spurs is challenging me to keep to my game.

Fashion Forward: The NBA

The NBA finals are heading to game #2, and one of the biggest questions remains what will Wade, Bosh and LeBron where at the post game press conference (no reason to worry about Duncan or Parker).  Read in the context of the NBA dress code, the league’s racialized culture wars, the “larger politics of adornment” (Ford), what is “legible and illegible” when it comes to black masculinity (Neal), and countless other issues, NBA fashion is a space for some important discussions.

I had the opportunity to “sit down” (in the google hangout; although I am not visible in the video) with Dr. Tanisha Ford, an assistant professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at University of Massachusetts, and a national expert on race, gender, sartorial choices, and youth culture to talk about NBA fashion.






The NBA’s “model minority”: The Exceptional Spurs

While not explicit there seems to be this subtle tone that the Spurs success reflects the number of international players.  The constant references to their unselfishness, team-first, and playing the right way encapsulates these sort of narratives and tropes.  The constant discussion of their teams intelligence (last night Boris Diaw was celebrated as a smart basketball player — nevermind that every NBA players has a high basketball IQ – right before he went for terrible steal leading to foul on Duncan) operates through a particular racial and national landscape.  The imagination of the Spurs as “model minorities” given the league’s demographics and their team roster should give us pause.  The imagination of the Spurs as hard working “immigrants” who play the game “the right way” is a window into some larger discussions and discourses

From “NBA Finals boast record international presence”

Social media has allowed sports fans all over the world to connect with one another in ways they never have before, and for the 2013 Finals, the NBA is taking that inclusiveness to even greater heights.

The NBA announced in a press release that the Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs will be broadcast in 215 countries and territories and be translated into 47 languages.

This year’s Finals features a record 10 international players between the two teams. The Spurs feature three French players (Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nando de Colo) as well as Argentinian Manu Ginobili, Brazilian Tiago Splitter, Australians Patrick Mills and Aron Baynes, U.S. Virgin Islands native Tim Duncan and Canadian Cory Joseph. The Heat feature Canada native Joel Anthony.

The Finals will be broadcast live in India on Sony Six as part of a new multiyear agreement, and many countries will have specialized experiences designed for them by the NBA.


American Exceptionalism and a culture of flopping

The NBA finals start tonight and while I am less than enthusiastic about the matchup, so much so that Chopped reruns might capture more of my attention, I am hopeful that the series will bring a lot of flopping.  Yes, flopping is what I am rooting for.  Besides the artistry and creativity, not too mention that talent required to deceive America’s best referee crew, the prospects of flopping will invariably send the NBA press corps into a tizzy. Fantastic.

The last couple weeks (and the season as whole) has prompted a series of hyperbolic, reactionary, and otherwise ridiculous columns on flopping. According to Ken Berger, “The NBA during the postseason has been as flop-tastic as ever.”  Calling for suspensions repeating acting on the job, Berger pins the game’s success on truthfulness and honesty: “ Nominal fines are doing nothing but encouraging floppers to do a better job of it so they don’t get caught. There’s only one punishment that will have any teeth with the players, coaches and front offices: suspensions.”

Israel Gutierrez seems to agree, equating flopping to cheating.

The label should push guys to keep it real.  Having the reputation as a flopper would seem to be a very unwanted label. Again, it implies you need to ‘cheat’ to succeed. And with all the other labels that get thrown around in the NBA (‘dirty,’ ‘soft,’ ‘choker,’ etc.), you’d think you’d want to avoid this particular one.

But the leader of the pack is Marshall Zweig, whose assessment of the fluidity between Hollywood and Springfield Massachusetts is so over-the –top I found myself wondering, satire.  But I think not.

The public is watching roundball criminals get away with their crime right in front of our eyes—and no one is really doing a thing about it. . . .   Fines and embarrassment are not working well enough. The league needs to up the ante. And it won’t do it unless we all get on its case. So make your outrage count.

Given the NBA discourse, and the tendency to imagine its (black) players as criminals in the post-Palace Brawl landscape, the link between flopping and criminality is striking.  And not a in a good way.

Despite the league induced panic, flopping isn’t anything new. In “Flopping in the NBA: A History of (Non)violence,” netw3rk makes this clear, seemingly reminding those who wax nostalgic that “golden age” of the NBA was defined by rampant flopping:

Flopping is to basketball as farting is to being alive; it’s annoying, ridiculous, and sometimes embarrassing reality, but a reality nonetheless. If something has been part of the game since the dribble, it’s probably more apt to refer to it as a tradition rather than a scourge.

While I don’t find flopping to be ridiculous or annoying, maybe these critics are onto something.  Isn’t flopping just another word for deception, lying, and otherwise exaggerating or making up for the sake of a particular point?  Flopping is something America has an endless supply.  Land of the free, home of flopping.  American exceptionalism at its best.  Yet, it seems a movement has taken hold in the NBA; whose got next?

One can only hope that anti-flopping movement takes hold throughout this nation

Will politicians (yes Michelle Bachman) stop flopping on the House Floor?

Does this mean politicians will no longer lament the end of civilization because mothers are working since flopping is bad?

Will politicians who blame moms working for the nation’s education failure face a fine?  The league office would surely be busy if it had to regulate the flopping of Washington, Wall Street, or Madison Ave.

And while I am talking about education, isn’t No Child Left Behind the ultimate example of flopping since it has left most children behind?

And if flopping is so bad on the hardwood shouldn’t we push to have it removed from the news arena.  I believe the “F” in FOX stands for flopping

The movement against flopping could cause more damage to advertising than the DVR.

Because aren’t commercials just flopping; deception, exaggeration, and in some instances lies to compel action from the consumer?  If flopping is bad in the NBA, surely we should rid society of this destructive and insidious influence in our everyday lives.

The examples of flopping are endless (and yes I am rhetorically flopping here).  From “the check is in the mail” to “sorry I was late there was a lot of traffic” (and are we really sorry) flopping is part of our daily praxis.  Some examples are harmless – acting like an opponent elbowed you in the face – whereas others can lead a nation into war.

Now that is some real flopping.

Sexual Harassment in a Culture of Misogyny | The Feminist Wire

Sexual Harassment in a Culture of Misogyny

By David J. Leonard

At least once year, the media highlights the issue of sexual harassment within the sport world. Often focusing on an athlete harassing a member of the media or someone within the organization, the narrative plays upon sensationalism, often depicting sexual harassment as the result of the confluence of highly sexualized male athletes, products of the über-masculine world of words, with an increasingly integrated sports world. In other words, the media coverage often reduces sexual harassment to tawdry tales involving athletes, seemingly leaving readers to believe that had women remained outside of these “male spaces,” sexual harassment would decline proportionally. Erasing power, legitimizing male privilege, all while denying the frequency of sexual harassment at every level of sporting culture and society at large, the media discourse surrounding sexual harassment often fails in documenting this societal evil.

At the start of the 2011 NBA season (and at its conclusion with a settlement), one story received ample coverage without much analysis and discussion. A former employee of the Golden State Warriors filed a lawsuit against Monta Ellis and the team for alleged sexual harassment. The AP Story described the lawsuit and the allegations as follows:

A former Golden State Warriors employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against star guard Monta Ellis on Wednesday, alleging Ellis sent her unwanted texts that included a photo of his genitals. In her lawsuit, which also names the team, Erika Ross Smith alleges Ellis began sending her several dozen explicit messages, sometimes several times a day, starting in November 2010 through January while she worked for the team’s community relations department.The messages included lines such as, “I want to be with you,” and “Hey Sexy,” and periodically asked her what she was wearing or doing, according to the lawsuit.

Sensationalistic, a series of headlines without much analysis, context, and examination, the spectacle here did little to address to problem of sexual harassment within the NBA and throughout society. The allegations against Ellis and the Warriors are not the only instance of reported sexual harassment. One week prior, Warren Glover, a former NBA security official, alleged that he was fired from his position with the NBA, one that he had held for ten years, because of his efforts to expose sexual harassment in the league office:

A former N.B.A. security official says that he repeatedly warned his superiors that women in the office were being sexually harassed or discriminated against, but that his concerns were ignored and that he was ultimately fired for his actions on the women’s behalf. He is suing the league for lost wages and damages.

These two instances, as well as the 2007 case involving Isiah Thomas, contribute to a narrative of the NBA as having a sexual harassment problem. Reinforcing the image of sport as a space of heightened sexism, where sexual harassment is rampant because of sport (macho) culture, the media discourse isolates the injustices, thereby comforting the rest of society. In other words, rather than using these moments to confront sexism and sexual harassment found in the NBA and society at large, such discourse isolates it to sports/NBA culture, thereby reinforcing a pacifying narrative of hypersexual black ballers (the Glover case works a bit different) preying on women.

Continue reading @ Sexual Harassment in a Culture of Misogyny | The Feminist Wire.