Racial Discrimination in NBA Research Paper

NBA is the major basketball association in the US and North America. However, in spite of the persisting struggle against racism and racial discrimination in NBA, the association still faces the problem of persisting racism which has multiple manifestations. The problem of racism in NBA results in the urgent need to introduce regulations and policies that help to prevent racism in NBA. In response to cases of racism that still persist in NBA, as was the case of the ex-owner of LA Clippers, Donald Sterling, NBA attempts to introduce new policies that help the association to tackle the problem of racism successfully. The association attempts to ban racism in any form and NBA has already proved its readiness to suppress racism at the top level of NBA team management. Therefore, the problem of racism in NBA persists but, at the moment, the association is taking bold steps to prevent racism in the association.

The problem of racism in NBA persists and there are several fields, where racism can be traced. In this regard, problems associated with racism of NBA teams’ owners has become viral recently, after allegations of racism related to the ex-owner of LS Clippers, Donald Sterling, who was banned for life by NBA over his racist comments and currently is virtually forced to sell his sport franchise (Swaine, 2014). The scandal has raised the public attention and triggered the turbullence affecting not only NBA but also the public and media in the US. Racist comments of Donald Sterling triggered the large scale antiracist campaign in NBA. As a result, he was banned by NBA and virtually excluded from the sport and NBA-related business. In such a way, the racist comments of Donald Sterling resulted in his exclusion from NBA, regardless of his high social standing and billions, which he did or could invest into NBA. Thus, NBA has already proved its readiness to put the end to racism and introduce sanctions against any person, who admits racist manifestations in NBA.

At this point, the involvement of the owner of Donald Sterling in sanctions imposed by NBA as well as NBA teams and their owners is very important for the elimination of racism in NBA. In fact, sanctions imposed on Donald Sterling, both formal and informal, show that NBA is ready to introduce sanctions in response to any manifestation of racism at any level, including the top one. In the past, such cases were exceptional and they could hardly occur just a couple of decades ago. Top managers and owners of NBA teams used to be ‘untouchable’ for the association, which could hardly impose any sanctions on them. However, the case of Donald Sterling shows how NBA has changed. In fact, Donald Sterling was pushed out of the business and association without even using strict sanctions imposed by NBA. Instead, he was just subject to severe public criticism and the united response of NBA teams. In this regard, the united response of NBA to his racism played the key part in his exclusion from NBA. The boycott of Donald Sterling by NBA members virtually forced him to exit business and cut all his relationships with NBA and basketball. As a result, the ethical response of NBA through the public condemnation of racism and boycott of the racist resulted in his exclusion from NBA, in spite of his capital and possible investments, which he could have made into NBA and basketball development in North America.

At the same time, the case of Donald Sterling is not unique since other owners of NBA teams also tend to racist comments and manifestations (Peter, 2014). Therefore, the punishment of Donald Sterling will teach other owners and stakeholders related to NBA to shift toward tolerance in their judgments and views on NBA teams, players as well as all people. The strict punishment of the ex-owner of LA Clippers for racist comments is the effective step toward the suppression of racism in NBA. The punishment of the ex-owner will restrain others from racist comments and change their attitude to the problem of interracial relations. At the same time, the response of team owners and NBA to the case of Donald Sterling has revealed the increased racial awareness of owners of NBA teams and other NBA team members. In fact, they became aware that racism is unacceptable. More important they actually took an active part in the exclusion of the racist from NBA. Hence, the new trend toward the elimination of racism in NBA can be clearly traced since NBA manifested the consolidated response to racism in NBA. Therefore, NBA is likely to stand on the same ground in the future and, in case of other racist manifestations, NBA is likely to respond in the similar way. This new policy may lead to the elimination or consistent reduction of racism in NBA because individuals working in NBA will face the risk of exclusion from NBA and professional basketball in the US and North America, if they slip to racism. With the case and expulsion of Donald Sterling, NBA has proved that it will not tolerate racism anymore

Some researchers (Price & Wolfers, 2010) uncover the problem of racism in relations between referees and NBA players, when the white background of referees comes into clashes with African American background of the majority of NBA players. The overwhelming majority of referees represent the white racial group. As a result, they comprise the majority of referees. However, the problem is that white referees and African American NBA players can slip to conflicts involving their racial background. At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that referees and players are vulnerable to conflicts in the course of the game because players may disagree with referees’ decision. Such disagreements and conflicts are quite natural. This is why conflicts between referees and players are frequent, but the different racial background of players and referees can trigger manifestations of racism. As a rule, researchers (Price & Wolfers, 2010) insist that referees are responsible for racist comments or claims. However, such manifestations are rather exceptional today and implicit than explicit. The interracial relations between referees and African American players were traditionally tense but the tension was driven by traditional relations between referees and players.

The problem of racism among referees is a serious challenge for NBA because the association needs to deal with deep-rooted racism in referee-player relations. However, today, it is rather the problem of racial relations than racism because the problem emerges because of mutual misunderstanding and extremely biased attitude of referees and players to each other (Price & Wolfers, 2010). Moreover, the tension between players and referees always existed and will exist, while in case of NBA, this tension bears racial marks. What is meant here is the fact that players were always dissatisfied with the work of referees and their decisions. This trend could be and still can be traced in virtually any sport and any country. Basketball as any other sport is a competition, where rivals are managed by referees during the game. As a result, any decision taken by a referee evokes the dissatisfaction of the team or player against which the decision is taken. Naturally, the risk of conflict increases substantially in such a situation. In case of NBA, the conflict is often accompanied by the racial difference between players and referees, when African American players confront white referees and they can just accuse referees of racism because referees took decisions against players. However, such allegations are rather emotional than objective because they do not always have the real ground. Referees have to take decisions, which have a negative impact in either rival but they do it not out of sheer racism, as many players may believe, but out of the necessity to match rules of the game.

In this regard, cases of racist comments from the part of referees are virtually impossible because referees cannot make comments similar to those made by Donald Sterling. They cannot make such comments because they will put the end to their professional career. Instead, players being vulnerable to racism in their regular life and being too engaged emotionally into the game may misinterpret decisions taken by referees and took for manifestations of racism instead of objective decisions taken by referees according to basketball rules.

The audience preferences uncover the hidden racism in the consumer behavior, since the interest of the audience to NBA matches increases, if white basketball players take part in matches (Kanazawa & Funk, 2001). At first glance, the audience preferences have little effect on racism in NBA but, in its essence, the audience preferences reveal the core of racism.  To put it more precisely, the audience preferences show the roots of racism, which originate from racial prejudices of the audience. Naturally, if the audience is vulnerable to racism then other stakeholders cannot always overcome racial biases and prejudices. As a result, referees, NBA team owners and other stakeholders can face considerable problems to overcome deep-rooted racial biases and stereotypes. Therefore, they may slip to racist comments being unaware to the full extent of their racist nature. Instead, they use comments, which they take for granted, which are natural for them, even if they are racist in their essence. They may do it not because of their personal deep-rooted racist beliefs but rather because they use social norms and stereotypes, which they are accustomed to.

At the same time, traditional racial tension between African Americans and the whites is not the only manifestation of racism that exists in NBA. Instead, it is possible to refer to the case of Jeremy Lin, the American basketball player of Taiwanese origin, who was also vulnerable to diverse manifestations of racism, including comments of sport journalists, who used racist sayings in relation to Lin (Freeman, 2012). In fact, the case of Jeremy Lin reveals the full extent to which racism is spread far beyond boundaries of NBA. To put it more precisely, racist comments concerning Lin can be traced among journalists and other stakeholders as well as public.

In fact, the case of Jeremy Lin expands the scope of the problem of racism in NBA and sport at large. Traditionally, the problem of racism in NBA was narrowed down to the racial discrimination of African American players, whereas the case of Jeremy Lin has proved that Asian Americans are also vulnerable to the risk of racism in NBA. In fact, the problem of racism may affect representatives of different racial groups and no one can feel being secured in this regard. On the contrary, racism may emerge anytime in relation to any person in NBA.

Therefore, racism in NBA does not exist within NBA only. Instead, racism is the social phenomenon that exists in the US society and NBA is just one of organizations, where racism has diverse manifestations. NBA stakeholders can slip to racism, but they may do it unintentionally being driven by their social beliefs and views. At the same time, it does not necessarily mean that racism is a social construct solely. Instead, individuals, who slip to racism in NBA, may do it purposefully as well that means that racism is a two-fold problem, which includes the external social impact on individuals and the impact of individual’s personal views and beliefs.

In fact, such cases of racism and its ultimate manifestations reveal the broad scope of the problem of racism in NBA as well as in the US society.  However, the problem is not a mere personal views and beliefs of some people within NBA, but the problem is broader and includes social norms and principles existing in the US that admit racism to NBA, other sports and the US society at large. In fact, the elimination of racism is possible only on the condition of consistent changes in social norms and rules as well as rules of conduct established in NBA. NBA has already proved that it will not tolerate racism after the case of Donald Sterling but the further elimination of racism will need to change the worldview of each player, referee, owner, spectator and other stakeholder involved in NBA. Only such changes can put the end to racism.

Thus, the problem of racism in NBA persists. The essence of the problem originates from racism persisting in the US society.  At the same time, racism may be also the individual matter of a particular individual, who slips to racist manifestations. Racism involves the audience, referee-players relations, owners of NBA teams and relations between players. However, NBA does its best to put the end to racism and eliminate all manifestations of racism in NBA.

 

Works Cited:

Freeman, H. Jeremi Lin Row Reveals Deep-Seated Racism against Asian Americans. The Guardian, 2012.Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/feb/21/jeremy-lin-racism-asian-americans

Kanazawa, M.T. J.P. Funk. Racial Discrimination in Professional Basketball: Evidence from Nielsen Ratings. Economic Inquiry, 39(4), 599-608.

Peter, J. Owner’s Racial Incidents Spur Calls for NBA Action. USA Today, 2014.

Price, J. and J. Wolfers. Racial Discrimination among NBA Referees. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2010, 1859-1887.

Swaine, J. NBA Bans LA Clippers Owner Donald Sterling for Life over Racist Comments. The Guardian, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/29/nba-la-clippers-donald-sterling-lifetime-ban-racist-comments

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