Colorlines recently posted interview by Jamilah King as he sat down with David Leonard, author of After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness. Leonard, professor of Ethnic Studies at Washington State University, is challenging the notion that race plays no factor in sports and that actions taken by the NBA regarding individual players as well as the entire league, smack of racial profiling and racism. He uses the example of Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, to illustrate his point. If you do not follow the National Basketball Association, MWP has a history of suspensions due to on-court actions. You can read the full interview [here], but it is the last paragraph that caught my eye.
One of the things that often strikes me is the disconnect between progressive and those engaged in anti-racist movement and struggles — and sports. Sports continues to be seen as antithetical or a distraction, or not part and parcel with the movements for justice. I think that when you have a society that is increasingly invested in and has been for the last 30 years, with incarceration, with a suspension culture, with racial profiling, it’s not a coincidence that you have a sports culture that’s equally invested in those practices. And invested in the language of the criminal justice system.
Some would argue that MWP’s actions have created the climate for the changes in how the NBA treats its players, while others, like Leonard, would argue that race and racism has played into much of what has been happening in the NBA. And there are still others, as he points out, who would dismiss all of this as a distraction to larger issues of race in America . . . after all, these NBA players are making MILLIONS on dollars . . . cry me a river.
So what do you think . . . IS sports the great racial equalizer?