Monday, November 5, 2012

A White NBA Team: Automatically Suspicious?

            Minnesota’s NBA franchise, the Timberwolves, have caught some flak early this season for the team’s racial composition.  The team is 70% white, including four-fifths of tis starting lineup, in a league that is 93% black.  Civil rights leaders have complained that the Timberwolves have intentionally constructed their roster to appeal to the team’s predominantly white fan base. Minnesota’s best player, Kevin Love, is the NBA’s most prominent American-born white player, though the core of the team also includes white players from Spain and Russia. The Timberwolves’ general manager, David Kahn, has defended the roster’s international composition, as well as through the notion that the ultimate goal is to compose a team that wins, regardless of color.
            The Timberwolves should not have to deal with accusations that their team is too racially skewed in one direction or the other.  As Kahn asserts, the team includes players from multiple countries, its starting shooting guard (Brandon Roy) is black, and the team made lucrative free agent offers in the offseason to black forwards Jordan Hill and Nicolas Batum, who accepted the contract’s terms but whose original team exercised their right to match the offer and retain him. Moreover, by indicting the team for trying to appeal to a white fan base, the civil rights leaders are really indicting the intolerance of the fan base, not the team.  Recent history does not support that attitude.
            In 1995, the Minnesota Timberwolves bucked years of traditional thought by spending its top draft pick on a high school player (a practice since outlawed by the league), 7’0” black forward Kevin Garnett.  Garnett spent a full decade as the unquestioned face of the franchise.  During that time, Minnesota did not struggle with complaints that the team was catering to a particular racial fan base, nor did they struggle with low attendance figures. The reason is evident: Garnett, now an NBA champion with the Boston Celtics, has been the Timberwolves greatest player and only certain Hall of Famer. The team enjoyed great success and notoriety with Garnett on the roster, and since he’s left, the Timberwolves have not had one winning season.  The activists criticizing the Timberwolves should show more respect for the team’s fan base and acknowledge that Minnesota is more likely trying to adhere to the model that has, across all sports, proven most successful in raising attendance and television ratings: if you win, they will watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment