Why Is the NBA Commissioner Allowing This Man to Lecture Him on Racism?

Why Is the NBA Commissioner Allowing This Man to Lecture Him on Racism?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver meets today with Al Sharpton for a talking to on what the league must do to combat racists from owning NBA teams in the future. Why not hold a summit with David Duke?

Sharpton was, of course, the other racist the Los Angeles NAACP sought to honor alongside then-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling at their banquet last month before events upended their plans. The group ditched Sterling. Sharpton stayed on the program without grasping the dishonor of the honor.  

Prospective NBA owners, Pope Alfred of the Holy Church of MSNBC pontificated to the New York Daily News, need to be “questioned in their relationship to people of other races–do they have any problems with diversity?–so we don’t end up with a Donald Sterling in the future.”

The proposed process, presumably, would eliminate the cable-TV talker from ever owning an NBA franchise.

When a Jewish driver accidentally killed a seven-year-old pedestrian in Crown Heights in 1991, and a mob of African Americans responded by murdering Yankel Rosenbaum in retaliation that night, Sharpton transformed the tragedy into political theater. “If the Jews want to get it on,” he bellowed, “tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” He delivered a eulogy at the boy’s funeral that obliquely referred to Jews as “diamond merchants” and likened Hasidics in Brooklyn to whites enforcing apartheid in South Africa:

The world will tell us he was killed by an accident. Yes, it was a social accident. It’s an accident for one group of people to be treated better than another group of people. It’s an accident to impose the will of a minority on a majority. It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights. It’s an accident to think we will just keep crying and not stand up and call for justice.

Sharpton traveled to Israel hoping to issue a citizen’s summons to Yosef Lifsh–in Canada at the time–for the boy’s death. When a woman in Tel Aviv told Sharpton to go to hell, the wrong reverend reportedly responded, “I am in hell already. I’m in Israel.” The demagogue flew back to the United States a few hours after landing in Israel, publicity stunt complete.

“White folks was in caves while we were building empires,” Sharpton told students at Kean College in 1994. “We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and those Greek homos ever got around to it.”

The next year, when Fred Harari of Freddie’s Fashion Mart attempted to evict a black subtenant, Sharpton ignorantly raged against Harari without recognizing, at least in his rhetoric, that a black Pentecostal church, not the Jewish businessman, owned the Harlem property. “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business,” Sharpton told demonstrators.

One of the protestors decided not to “stand by.” Roland Smith shot up the store, and set it on fire, before shooting himself. Seven Freddie’s Fashion Mart employees died from smoke inhalation. Several others fled with gunshot wounds. Sharpton escaped the mess by balking when police stated that the arsonist-gunman had been picketing at the rotund reverend’s events.

From Tawana Brawley to the Duke Lacrosse case to the Zimmerman-Martin affair, Al Sharpton never fails to inflame racial antagonisms and embrace falsehood when it serves a political end. By granting him an audience–on the eve of the NBA Finals, no less–Adam Silver legitimizes Sharpton’s racism in the way that his harsh punishment of Donald Sterling delegitimized his racism.

The farcical quality of the powwow reveals the subconscious racism of people such as Silver who pledge to fight it. Like when the big kids allow small children to play wiffleball without telling them that their runs and outs don’t count, Silver pretends to take a self-parody seriously as he imagines away the anti-discrimination crusader’s despicable history of discrimination. The black hater feigns a moral enlightenment on matters of race and the white corporate coward feigns appreciation for the consul. Equality here means treating Sharpton the way you would treat Sterling had he said Sharpton’s words. But that would be bad PR. And from the Sterling ban to the Sharpton embrace, doing the right PR thing, rather than doing the right thing, is what the humungous three-letter entity is all about. 

Donald Sterling’s private words merely hurt people’s feelings. Al Sharpton’s public pronouncements have harmed individuals more tangibly. The Los Angeles NAACP got it right. He belongs on a stage with Donald Sterling. He certainly doesn’t belong across a table lecturing Adam Silver on bigotry.