The NBA's War on Truth

Now marketing discussions are racist?

Why is it that, in modern America, no fight against anything is able to carry on for very long without metastatizing into a fight against sanity if not against reality itself?

We've seen countless examples, from "walks against breast cancer" that become yet another proxy battle over abortion, to "gay rights" to be left alone becoming instead an anathamatizing of both religion and culture.

Now comes the NBA, previously an engaging pastime and national sporting obsession, following the same road to perdition.

Fighting Racism?  Or The Real World?

Our readers may recall the bizarre case of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was perfectly content with his black girlfriend having sex with black men in private, but couldn't tolerate her being seen with black men in his stadium.  He expressed these delusional views in a private conversation; his part-time paramour recorded it, released it to the media, and the full power of the NBA and media elites was exerted to force him to sell his private property.  The only thing remotely defensible about this affair was the premium price he received, so he wasn't exactly robbed.

This week comes news that another NBA team owner is passing through the pillory, and the situation is even more preposterous than Sterling's.  Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson outed himself to the NBA, for a two-year-old email so racist that, he says, he cannot be allowed to continue to own the team.  In fact, quoth he:

If you're angry about what I wrote, you should be. I'm angry at myself too.

Occasionally, a convicted murderer or rapist begs the judge for the death sentence because he's so evil and guilty that he does not deserve to live.  This is notable because it's rare; most people either proclaim their innocence or try to justify the crime in some way.  You'd particularly expect successful billionaires to be mostly self-serving in their analyses of their own actions; they don't generally become billionaires by punishing themselves financially even if they deserve it.

So what did Levenson say that was so beyond the pale, so utterly unthinkable that it instantly barred him, not merely from polite society, but indeed from the sports-business world as a whole?

He ... laid out all the problems with the current fan base, listing the following:

- it's 70 pct black
- the cheerleaders are black
- the music is hip hop
- at the bars it's 90 pct black
- there are few fathers and sons at the games
- the concerts [after games] are either hip hop or gospel

Levenson continued in the email ... "My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant  season ticket base." He also complained that he's told team execs, "I want some white cheerleaders ... I have even bitched that the kiss cam is too black."

When Everyone Is Insane, The Sane Are The Criminals

Let's think about this for a moment.  Sports may be entertainment, but for the owner of a sports team it is a business.  First and foremost, the job of the team owner is to convince people to pay good money for tickets to games.

Obviously, part of this is for potential ticket-buyers to feel comfortable, happy, and welcome at the games.  Any good businessman knows that customers who feel ill at ease in his establishment won't come back.

Mr. Levenson was engaging in an analysis of why his team wasn't able to make the money it ought to make.  He felt that the choice of music and staff was appealing to a particular demographic which, overall, wasn't rich enough to afford the product, and was scaring off those who were.

In fact, he was merely pointing out what our Fearless Leader in the White House and his minions throughout the administration never cease to hammer on: white people have more money than black people.  If one is in the business of making money, it's simply common sense to go where the money is, and as our elite opinionmakers bemoan every day, that means white folks.

Did Levenson suggest that his games should be barred to black people?  He most certainly did not!  Did he propose to establish a whites-only hiring policy?  Not in the least - he simply suggested that the cheerleaders should "look like America"!

Isn't that what we're all supposed to do?  If they were 100% black, why can't he say "I want some white cheerleaders"?  Not "all", not even "most", just "some" - and for this, he expelled himself!  It's not as if a black audience is particularly averse to attractive white ladies; perhaps the procurators of the NBA need to spend more time watching "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" to learn more about modern interracial mores.

Let's read further:

I want the music to be music familiar to a 40 year old white guy if that's our season tixs demo.

Ya think?  Every businessman knows that not all customers are equal: a store has no need of "customers" who don't have the money to pay for what's being sold.  That's why many higher-end clothing stores play classical music: not only do wealthy older shoppers appreciate Beethoven, but young punks who can't afford the clothes and scare off folks who can can't stand the sound of great symphonies.

In order to be successful, a business has to know what sort of people buy its wares, and what they like.  That's not even Business 101, it's what you learn before you're ready for Business 101.

A barbershop in Harlem is not going to play Beethoven, nor is a grocery in El Paso; but a custom men's clothier on 5th Avenue would never play the tunes presented by those other two places.  The target demographics of the three are entirely different, their products are different, their pricing is different, every single thing about them is as different as it's possible to be.  If we are to continue to be a free country, that's entirely fine.

But apparently we aren't anymore.  Mr. Levenson gently suggested that his business ought to consider the preferences of potential paying customers, and out the door he goes.

The War on Reality

It gets worse.  Mr. Levenson observed:

I never felt uncomfortable, but i think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority.

Of course he never felt uncomfortable - he is a billionaire surrounded by armed guards in his own private owner's box.

For those of us not so privileged, however, a little precautionary discomfort does not go amiss.  It doesn't take much work to find plenty of examples of unfortunates who needed a stronger sense of discomfort and paid the price for its lack:

Out on a double date, the two couples pulled into the parking lot of so-called “University McDonald’s” shortly after 2 a.m. that Sunday – and beheld a scene unlike anything portrayed in all those wholesome McDonald’s television commercials. Before them, hundreds of young black males were loitering about, some without shirts.

Other local residents — the more cynical and world-weary, both whites and most blacks — would have taken one look at the crowd and driven off, dismissing many of the young and posturing black males as thugs. But not them: innocent white kids from the suburbs. They presumed this was post-racial America — and that they were in an easy-going college town.

Twenty minutes later, two of them were dead.

A bit too racist for you?  Then you might consider the advice of none other than the famous (or notorious) civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson:

There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.

Rev. Jackson may hate racism, but he values his own sorry hide even more.  Apparently, white people aren't allowed to feel exactly the same way - and that's racist.

There's a single bright spot in this sordid picture: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is both a) black and b) enormously successful, put his reputation on the line to publish an article defending Mr. Levenson.  Not only is this honorable and admirable, it gives the lie to anyone who assumes that all blacks are greedy, racist thugs and thieves who can succeed only by stealing or blackmailing from white people.  Mr. Abdul-Jabbar earned every penny of his success by his own hard work, and is also intelligent and honest enough not to succumb to the temptation of race-bating as so many others have.

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar aside, though, what has the NBA taught us this week?  That it cares nothing for the safety of its patrons, or their preferences, or their tastes.  In fact, its owners aren't even allowed to consider such things or they'll soon be ex-owners.

Maybe it's time for a visit to NASCAR?

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Business.
Reader Comments

I've never been able to make any sense of this story. He clearly wants to get as much for the team as possible. Does he think he will get a higher price f he confesses to intolerable insensitivity? On the other hand, listing all the reasons his team isn't making as much money as it ought to doesn't sound like a good way to raise the price. But then again, he may want to make sure that all the ways a buyer could increase sales and therefore the value of the team are on the record.

Who knows? The rich are different from you and me.

September 10, 2014 8:31 PM

The truth is no defense against a charge of racism. If it were, sane people would be able to point out various facts that unite all the recent "violence against women" charges in the NFL. But, despite the glaringly obvious, all stay silent.

September 24, 2014 8:44 AM
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