Take the “N” out of the NFL and NBA | Steve Berman

I am really sick of the cognitive dissonance and cynical pandering in sports these days. Never mind politics, but we used to be proud that sports, long the holdout in segregation and execrable discriminatory policies, not so long ago broke through the race barrier. Now, because it’s “woke” to pander to some “resistance” movement that rejects the trappings of so-called Americana, including the national anthem, military honor guards, and thanking law enforcement officers who protect the venues, owners have cashed in on making themselves look as if they’re not all rich, white men.

We have a rich, white man as President in the White House. A rich, white woman is the Speaker of the House. A wealthy mixed-race lawyer, the wife of a wealthy white lawyer, is the Vice President.

Mark Cuban, always the troll, stepped out and declared the national anthem verboten at Dallas Mavericks NBA games. He did this without consulting the league. He knew what their reaction would be, therefore I know he was trolling, not serious. Yet, leftist academics like Dartmouth professor of (non-)religion Randall Balmer fell for it. Balmer wrote an LA Times op-ed favoring a permanent ban on the national anthem for sports games.

Some years ago, I made my only visit to Yankee Stadium. The game was a blowout, and we decided to leave early, but we were blocked on the way out by yellow-shirted security guards with their arms extended, gripping chains. We had committed the unpardonable sin of trying to leave the stadium during the singing of “God Bless America.”

How is that not a species of fascism?

My God. I don’t even know where to begin with that.

Let’s start with the fact that Randall Balmer is also a white man, and he’s probably rich, having a successful career as an author and an Emmy-nominated television host. Add to that the fact that among NBA and NFL team owners, only one—Michael Jordan—is Black. Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets.

Most team general managers and coaches in the NFL are white, despite the “Rooney Rule.” Oh, and by way, last May, in the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown, the league owners refused to add teeth to the Rooney Rule by tying it to draft picks, instead just monkeying with a few of the requirements for teams to interview a few token minorities for executive and coaching positions, and “acknowledging” what they called “an unacceptable record of minority hiring in positions of team leadership.”

This was the owners speaking, who could have mandated and rewarded minority coaching and management hires, but they didn’t want to do it. From ESPN:

Currently, the NFL has four minority head coaches and two minority general managers. Brian Flores of the Dolphins was the only minority candidate among the eight head coaches hired after the 2018 season. Washington’s Ron Rivera, who’d been fired a couple of months earlier by the Carolina Panthers, was the only minority candidate among the five new head coaches hired this offseason. The NFL’s workplace diversity committee, according to a source, decided this offseason that it needed to propose “something bold” to address the ongoing issue, hence the now-tabled proposal to award draft picks as incentive for minority hiring. The league hopes the changes instituted Tuesday lead to longer-term solutions.

A 2016 University of Connecticut study by economics students looked to find any correlations that would answer the question of wage discrimination amongst NFL athletes, specifically by race. The students found:

–  No evidence that race affects salary

–  Productivity seems to be largest salary factor

–  When players compare in stats, what causes the salary difference?

–  Size, speed, negotiation deals, multiple factors contribute??? –  **We do notice certain positions are dominated by race**

Well, give the kids points for bowing to reality. The highest paid positions tend to be quarterbacks, and quarterbacks are overwhelmingly white. If you compare white and Black players at similar positions, pay is determined by results and ability. But in ownership and coaching, that’s a different ballgame.

And when it comes to covering for this blatant race inequality, owners love to get completely aboard the woke train. They’re just fine subsidizing Colin Kaepernick’s Nike career, as long as they don’t have to put him on the field.

These same rich white owners are just fine banning military honor guards, or making the national anthem optional, because they don’t want to seem like the fascist security guards that triggered Randall Balmer at Yankee Stadium. They conveniently blamed COVID-19 for the ban, but let’s see if this continues next season.

Meanwhile, Mark Cuban can troll his way to hero for the militant left, without really meaning it.

I have a suggestion. Why not neuter the NFL and NBA completely, when it comes to nationalism? Why not remove all traces of tradition and connection to anything patriotic or remotely American? Why fly the flag at all?

Why call the leagues the “National Football League” or the “National Basketball Association?” Why have a “National” and “American” conference? I mean, isn’t it fascist to connect what should be pure sports with American nationalist policies? If the Washington Football Team can’t be the Redskins because that name is hopelessly mocking of Native Americans, then why should the league be the NFL? Shouldn’t it just be the “Football League?”

Maybe call the NFL the WFL, for Woke Football League, which could also be read as the White-owned Football League. Since there’s already a WNBA, the NBA should perhaps be the BXBA: the Blaxploitation Basketball Association, where privileged white men like Mark Cuban pay Black players so they can make an enormous profit on television deals, and throw bones from their troll caves to distract from the real problem.

Of course, if we really wanted to get real, we’d call both leagues the MFL and the MBA, with “M” of course meaning “Money.” Our money, that the team owners want to move from our wallets into theirs.

Since I pay for the military honor guards and the law enforcement officers who protect their precious cathedrals built to worship Money, I figure I should have a say on whether they ban having those people perform. And if the privileged, rich white men who run those teams want to continue pandering to the woke crowd without making meaningful changes, I would have no problem at all if the Black athletes who argue over what percentage of the salary-capped operating expenses (above the net profit line on the income statement) they get, decide to muscle in on the bottom line until they’re given a seat at the management table.

If the NFL and NBA want to make themselves woke, let them wake up all the way, I say. Otherwise, they’re just playing games with the “N” word.

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.

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