Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Truth about the Image Problem of the NBA

Gilbert Arenas has just joined Plaxico Burress in the exclusive fraternity of athletes making unwise decisions with dangerous firearms. Jason Williams, the embattled former NBA star would gladly trade places with Agent Dumbo. As an NBA fan, its been hard to defend certain aspects of the culture of the Hip hop generation. Every generation contributes something to society that will be marked in history. Some of those things will be very good and in true human form inherently evil. Modern corporations love market and profit from certain aspects of culture until the side effects of the latter rears its ugly. That's the dichotomy of the marriage of Hip Hop and the NBA Brand.

The "gangsta" culture didn't originate from hip hop culture. It began from the machine gun era gangsters(pay attention class) that Hollywood glorified. Hip Hop culture has followed in the footsteps of this tradition, even making its way up to the ranks of the rich and famous. If you're under 45 and you're reading this, you probably can appreciate the complexity this culture breeds. On one side you have the beauty of creativity, expression, fashion, language and community. On the other one can see the violence, poverty ignorance, and overblown machismo that creates its own code of ethics.

There's a stunning element that most NBA detractors will never acknowledge. When reconciling this perceived image problem, I couldn't help but notice how other sportz leagues can recover a lot easier and faster than the NBA can. Other professional leagues are able to survive scandals better than Marion Barry.

The image of Nascar has gotten better but some people in select regions will never lose the image of a toothless fans screaming at the top of his lungs for their favorite driver. Nascar quietly settled a lawsuit with Mauricia Grant in 2008 for sexual harassment along with the racial slurs she endured everyday. When the story first broke Nascar's P.R. machine sold the public on its ongoing commitment to diversity. The media moved on and so did the fan base of Nascar and Ms. Grant got a nice undisclosed amount to go away.

Baseball has survived multiple P.R. disasters throughout its history. The steroid era yielded some shocking discoveries of a cheating sub culture that challenged the integrity of the game. Alex Rodriguez, easily the game's biggest star and highest paid player looked America right in the eyeballs and lied about his steroid use. After facing the music, he defiantly led the Yankees to another world championship. Where's the righteous indignation from the baseball purist now? Steroid era be damned right? When are those other names going to be released from the Mitchell Report. The P.R. machine of major league baseball has made John Q fan forget that his favorite sportz league is a cheater. I'm not hating the player and this case I won't even hate the game.

What about the bad boys of the NFL. Matt Jones the crackhead didn't inspire any fans to cancel their season passes or Sunday ticket with their local and national cable providers. Pac-man Jones got a million second chances and LP field was still filled to capacity. Mike Vick went way for about 20 months and is now back in the fold. Mark Chumura once kicked it at an underage party. Brett Farve was once addicted to pain killers and loved his share of last call.

Did public ever really got a credible explanation about Spygate? Outside of a hefty fine, the loss of draft picks and an unenthused apology from Bill Belicheat, the Patriots mad out like fat rats. Nixon would be proud of Goodell got rid of the evidence. The American sportz public didn't bat an eye. How many of the national media campaigned for Belicheat to miss any games? How many games did Tank Johnson, Chris Henry (R.I.P) and Adam Jones miss? They gave us the sacrifical lambs of the player but allowed executive privilege to rear its ugly head. In this case I hate both the player and the game.

So why can't the critics of the NBA admit that they just hate the league? Gilbert Arenas and Jarvis Crittenton aren't even marquee players. Arenas is an overpaid former all star that most casual basketball fans wouldn't recognize instantly. Okay you'd notice he's tall. Maybe you'd ask him in the supermarket during casual conversation if he played in college.

Crittenton spent one year at Georgia Tech. The only reason I know that is because I'm a rabid sportz fan who happens to write a sportz blog. Lebron James, Dewayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, and Carmello Anthony headline a very talented league. Sure Anthony and Bryant aren't squeaky clean but they've recovered quite nicely. Up and coming young stars like Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings will be unfairly associated with the gangsta culture by some of the public. .

Jemelle Hill of ESPN.com wrote a very articulate argument about why Arenas should be suspended indefinitely. (She got her wish) She went on to say that the Wizards should void the rest of his contract. No disrespect to one of my favorite columnist but that's complete hogwash. Does Elliot Spitzer have to apologize for Mark Sanford's political transgressions? Is it fair to assume that every politician lives a secret life as these two gentleman? So if the answer is no then why does the NBA have to make an example out of one guy? Is it because some casual basketball fans believe that every NBA player behaves just as irresponsibly as Gilbert Arenas did? I'll take a YES for a thousand Alex.

Ask most NBA detractors why the hate the NBA and like college basketball better. Ask them why they'd rather see top tier talent stay three years but in the same vein forget that child actors, baseball players and European basketball leagues employ players as young as fifteen. The Malice in the Palace participants got off pretty lightly considering the horrible scene that was displayed all over the airwaves. Arenas and Crittenton's altercation was in an NBA locker room behind closed doors seen by just the employees of the Wizards. Consider the fact that Sebastian Telefair only received a three game suspension for trying to carry a firearm on an airplane. What was Steven Jackson's punishment for shooting off a gun at a night club in Indianapolis?

Jackson was subsequently traded and had to sit out seven games. In comparison to his track record how many people of national media called for Jackson to have his contract voided? Where they asleep at the wheel or did this story not make it to the national hype machine. Why are we being sheep here? The media is telling us yet again who to like and who to hate. Telefair and Jackson's transgressions are just has ignorant, if not worse than Arenas's blunder. Quite Frankly Jackson's track record is far worse. Yes Arenas brought a gun in a place where guns are prohibited. That's the easy part to punish but to strip away his livelihood in the name cleaning up an image to appeal to a casual fan base is ludicrous. The NBA has been a global phenomenon dating back to the early nineties.

Do we still view them through the tainted image of perception and prejudice? Yes we do. Its unfair to convict a man for what could have happened instead of for what actually occurred. Arenas should have his day in court and should face all consequences for his irrational behavior. David Stern finally caved under the public pressure to suspend Arenas indefinitely. The talk of voiding his contract by most people in the national media is really ridiculous. Seriously, did anyone in the media fraternity advocate Harold Reynolds or Marv Albert not getting a job ever again?(In case you didn't know these guys had some nasty sex scandals happen at one time that was detrimental to their image)

You didn't think for one moment that a photo and a few loose words had anything to do with Stern finally pulled the trigger on suspending Agent Dumbo did you? He cracked under the P.R. pressure. We've got tons of people who play mafia wars on Facebook, consume some of the most violent images that Hollywood as to offer and applaud the vigilante style justice that gun play perpetuates in entertainment. Surprisingly these are the same people who seem to find it in their intellect to be upset with a guy who didn't even shoot or point the gun at anyone.

For some, the thought of young black males with guns is much more sinister than Timothy McVeigh owning one. Or what about the guy that just went on a wild rampage in Las Vegas. I'd bet the farm that he probably was "licensed" to carry a gun at some point. I'm sure most people know that McVeigh once served our country in the military. Please save the argument of registered gun users versus unlicensed ones. Not unless you're prepared to discuss the myriad of loopholes that contribute to guns getting into the"unlicensed" hands. Let's have a discussion on how gun reform is always misrepresented as trying to confiscate guns from people who are licensed.

Cultures around the world are past many of the conceptual dogmas that still exist in America. Entire societies have been transformed by the words, imagery and example of people who have worked their entire lives to stop violence, prejudice, hate and ignorance. How can we still categorize "urban" youth as the only culprit for violent behavior? Some may view this story as a time to revisit the violence that young black males perpetuate in neighborhoods that rival war zones. While that may be a noble gesture it undermines the work that grass root activists are already doing. They get less face time and rarely get any financial help from the general public.

This type of bigotry diverts the attention of society at large from taking inventory on our violent culture. The question is are we willing to address the "image" problem of our country around the world? Will we continue to segregate this problem like most of our other ones? Will the image of one guy who did something dumb be the rallying cry for "what's really wrong with America" Or will we just move to the next story that is sure to kidnapped by the under current of agenda based media outlets. You should already which one my money's on.

No comments:

Post a Comment