The NBA is a troubled league for many more reasons than being white or black. Labeling the problem, “the NBA exists today as being simply racial,” is a cop-out as any educated sports fan will tell you. Labeling race as the be-all-end-all problem in the NBA is much like saying the same is true for the United States. It is easy and convenient to do so, but race is not the sole reason for the NBA’s and the United States’ shortcomings.
Players in the NBA are much more visible than those in any other league. Unlike every other major American sports league, NBA players are not shrouded by a baseball hat or helmet. Not to mention that members of the NBA seem to be more active in pop culture, specifically the hip-hop and rap cultures, which unfortunately carry stigmas of womanizing and violence.
So when an NBA player makes a mistake, large or small, it is easier for the media to exploit it, causing the negative perceptions of the athletes to grow exponentially. Two brief, important models for this theory are the instances that occurred over two seasons ago – one being the alleged rape in Colorado, of which Kobe Bryant was acquitted, and the other being the brawl in which the Indiana Pacers made their way into the seats, accosting a number of fans. When incidents like these occur, the players’ faces are plastered all over the television and the Internet, so when a marginal fan witnesses a game they relate more to the negative than the positive.
Certainly the NFL has had its problems throughout the years. Most recently Chris Henry of the Bengals was cut after another arrest warrant was issued (his fifth in a year and a half), not to mention Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, Ricky Williams and others.
Ray Lodato’s article in the April 2 issue of The Signal said that only 21 percent of fans see what is happening in the NFL as being “a shame,” compared to 50 percent of fans of the NBA.
The other polls included in his article were also telling, but were admittedly, “not an indictment on the quality of the game being played.” This is the major problem with the NBA. The product the NBA puts on the court is not of the same quality as any of the other three major sports. It has much less to do with race than you think, especially considering the NFL’s demographic is about 65 percent black, with many other “non-white” athletes that do not fit that distinction, including Pacific Islanders, particularly Samoans.
I am not trying to say that race is not an issue concerning the perception of the NBA, because it certainly is, but it is not the major problem. Last season I spent $80 on a lower-level seat to see the Philadelphia 76ers play the New Jersey Nets. To my dismay, Allen Iverson, my favorite player, was not playing because of a desire to be traded. To further compound my frustration, the other marquee player, Vince Carter, went 0-11 in the first half, throwing up uninspired shot after uninspired shot in a sloppy, very unexciting game. Needless to say, I have not been back to an NBA game since. I may return to a game this season because the 76ers are going to make the playoffs. However, this is the only reason to pay for an NBA game.
The playoffs are the only time of the year when NBA players actually play as hard as they can. In the NFL, NHL or MLB, this question of effort hardly, if ever, comes up, and when it does, players are chastised for it.