Marketplace Scratch Pad

An all-white basketball league?

Scott Jagow Jan 22, 2010

This probably doesn’t deserve much attention, but in the spirit of pointing out the obstacles this country still faces is getting past racial issues, here goes: Something called The All-American Basketball Alliance announced this week that it plans to launch a professional league in June in 12 Southeastern cities. According to the press release, “only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play.”

The Augusta Chronicle in Georgia first reported the story. The league hopes Augusta will be one of the cities:

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who has publicly expressed his support for minor league teams in the past, said he would not do the same for this team.

“As a sports enthusiast, I have always supported bringing more sporting activities to Augusta,” he said. “However, in this instance I could not support in good conscience bringing in a team that did not fit with the spirit of inclusiveness that I, along with many others, have worked so hard to foster in our city.”

Clint Bryant, athletic director at Augusta State University, laughed when he heard the news.

“It’s so absurd, it’s funny, but it gives you an idea of the sickness of our society” he said.

The commissioner of the AABA, Don “Moose” Lewis, says he’s looking for franchisees to pay $10,000 to license a team. Lewis says the reasoning behind the league isn’t racism:

There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing,” he said. “I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.”

Lewis said he wants to emphasize fundamental basketball instead of “street-ball” played by “people of color.” He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas’ indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans’ dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run.

“Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?” he said. “That’s the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction.”

And there’s more. Lewis says he’s been contacted about turning the league into a — wait for it — reality TV series. It would culminate in an all-star game between an all-white team and an all-black team. The series would be called, I kid you not, “Snowball vs Broball.” Here’s the commish:

I find it hard to believe this league can get off the ground financially or even get close to 12 teams. But I find a lot things that happen in our society hard to believe. And there are sports leagues restricted by gender and age. In an NPR post about this, one commenter says:

I tried to start a league at my YMCA to get middle aged, height challenged, weight challenged men to play ball. It was going to exclude anyone over 6′ and under 200lbs. Saw it as a way to get some men that would not normally get a chance to play structured basketball, also a way to help them get into better shape. I was shot down, because it would exclude members.

Is exclusion always a bad thing? Maybe this isn’t as “black and white” as it appears. Of course, it probably is. The take from NBC’s Out of Bounds blog:

OK global warming, we’re pretty much done here. We thought we were making progress, but you can go ahead and cook us up. Just try and spare the dolphins; they’re smart.

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