[Marxism] In Socially Conscious N.B.A., Perception of Knicks Dims Again

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 16 11:02:55 MST 2017

NY Times, Feb. 16 2017
In Socially Conscious N.B.A., Perception of Knicks Dims Again

N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver. With the Knicks and Charles Oakley 
feuding, he stepped in. Credit Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
The N.B.A. will stage an All-Star Game on Sunday night in New Orleans, 
having moved its annual orgy of festivity from Charlotte in a stand 
against what it perceived to be discrimination in North Carolina.

Call it what you like, grand posturing or social valor, 2016 was a year 
in which the league moved miles from the Michael Jordan model of walking 
that fine unaligned line, that cautious acknowledgment that folks of all 
political persuasions buy basketball shoes.

Jordan — ironically the current owner of the Charlotte franchise that 
was originally to host this All-Star weekend — committed no crime in his 
day. He wasn’t obligated to climb atop any soapbox. His 
athlete-empowering legacy within corporate America is indisputable. 
Still, he never did consider the possibility that athletes could risk 
the commercial perils of taking sides, the way LeBron James has, without 
any significant blowback.

Marketing strategies change, along with the times. The N.B.A. is a 
global brand now. During this season, premier coaches — Gregg Popovich, 
Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy — have bemoaned the rise and policies of 
Donald Trump. James, the league’s marquee player, campaigned in Ohio 
with Hillary Clinton. A host of stars, including James, Dwyane Wade and 
Carmelo Anthony, have, for a while now, been lamenting society’s 
polarizing ills.

And just last week, Stephen Curry made his feelings about the 45th 
president mighty clear with clever wordplay.

It is in this 21st-century N.B.A., in this sequence of events, that we 
need to consider the recent behavioral chaos inside Madison Square 
Garden — with the Knicks sinking to a new low of depravity with the 
arrest and humiliation of Charles Oakley, and with Commissioner Adam 
Silver then needing to get involved, to say enough is enough.

In the process of doing what the owners pay him to do, Silver had to 
protect the Knicks from inflicting further damage on themselves and the 
league than the considerable amount they had already inflicted.

Silver’s league may do the bulk of its business in the United States, 
but it has millions of fans — and millions in corporate deals — around 
the world. It welcomes players of all colors and ethnicities. It is, no 
doubt, with that diversity in mind that Silver — perhaps even more so 
than David Stern before him — has staked the N.B.A.’s reputation on 
being intolerant of intolerance.

Working out of New York, Silver felt the visceral reactions around the 
city to the sight of Oakley in handcuffs, dragged from the building, 
while fans who never forgot how hard he played for the Knicks in the 
1990s chanted his name. Silver listened as people rallied around Oakley, 
despite Oakley’s own inexcusable behavior during the Garden 
confrontation, for which the team’s owner, James L. Dolan, bore by far 
the most responsibility.

Silver no doubt winced as Dolan then descended right into the gutter, by 
publicly, and recklessly, diagnosing Oakley as an alcoholic in need of 
psychological help.

And Silver surely heard Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, 
invoke the elephant in the room, the notion of racial discrimination, 
when he compared the treatment of Oakley to the explosive case of Eric 
Garner, the Staten Island man who was killed by police while being 
placed under arrest in 2014.

In itself, the Oakley debacle was enough to raise suspicions that the 
Garden had surrendered to an old N.B.A. racial stereotype — the angry, 
scary thug (as opposed to the notion that hockey’s brawlers are 
honorable enforcers).

Maybe Silver’s next guest on the hot seat in his office should be Phil 
Jackson, the Knicks’ team president, who, this season, has managed to 
insult James and others with his reference to James’s “posse” and turned 
Anthony, still his best player, into a much-pitied martyr by 
disrespectfully sniping at him via the media, news and social.

Lost in the fallout over Jackson’s latest commentary on Anthony was his 
needless use of Michael Graham as a prop and punch line in the attack, 
swiping at Graham, a former troubled player who had a dispiriting home 
life and whom Jackson coached for about 15 minutes in the basketball 
bush leagues 30 years ago. Why should Jackson drag an innocent man into 
the mess he has created?

Understand that the Knicks, long before this season, had a rap sheet of 
insensitivity. A proud lifer, Don Chaney, was escorted by security out 
of Dolan’s Garden after showing up to coach the Knicks one forgettable 
night and finding he had been fired. Most notably, Dolan embraced the 
same scorched-earth strategy he tried on Oakley when a former Knicks 
employee, Anucha Browne Sanders, sued for sexual harassment a decade ago.

Instead of settling with Sanders, as he could and should have, Dolan 
allowed the case to go to a civil trial because, as he said in a 2015 
interview, “the fighter came out in me.” The result? He paid roughly 
$11.6 million in damages, and the two principal figures in the case, 
Sanders and Isiah Thomas, both African-Americans, were dragged through 
the mud.

Now there is Oakley on the Garden’s record, along with the franchise’s 
other recent controversies triggered by Jackson’s eccentric 
communication habits. And just what do you suppose this generation of 
black N.B.A. stars, galvanized as they were by those repugnant Donald 
Sterling remarks that surfaced in 2014, is feeling right now about the 

Here’s a hint from Golden State’s Draymond Green, who said during a 
podcast that the Knicks had treated Oakley with a “slave master mentality.”

A perception about the Knicks has been created, and while it can be 
exaggerated to the point of being unfair, Dolan and the Knicks know how 
that game goes. They played it with Oakley last week. In the process, 
they may have jeopardized their ability to lure prominent players to New 
York, or even to retain the few, including Kristaps Porzingis, they have.

There is no question that the Knicks’ play on the floor this season has 
been poor, and that’s on the players. But the performance in assembling 
this team and managing it has been much worse.

In the context of the ever more progressive N.B.A., the Knicks look like 
a franchise left behind.

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