By Black Hammer
As a league comprised of around 75% African players, professional basketball, like most professional sports in amerikkka, unquestionably draws many parallels to slavery.
These parallels rear their ugly heads in the owner-player relationship. Players are literally bought and sold by these teams as property, constantly being referred to as assets by sports media.
Even before reaching this stage players are trotted out in front of team executives and media members. They are forced to show off their athleticism and other physical characteristics – a modern day auction block known as the combine.
However, it would be ignorant to make these statements without acknowledging that these players are making millions of dollars essentially as human billboards for multi-million dollar corporations. While many of these players come from poor, disenfranchised upbringings, not all of them are the same.
Lebron James, the most popular player, is constantly lauded by the media for his investment strategies. From a revolutionary perspective, seeing his start as a poor African kid from Akron, Ohio, he is now nothing but a sellout. He owns 14 Blaze Pizza plantations where workers are not even able to make a living wage. He also holds stakes in Beats Electronics as well as Liverpool F.C.
Not all players have this relationship to the means of production. In contrast to the praise received by James and other players with “solid investment portfolios”, players who see it fit to redistribute their wealth back into their communities are often criticized and called broke. Hood-favorite superstar Allen Iverson always comes to mind.
Despite the varying degrees of criticism that needs to be directed at these players for their hoarding of wealth, one element remains true for all of them: they all face the “shut up and dribble” narrative.
The “shut up and dribble” narrative is one that, by using the excuse of these athletes making millions, seeks to nullify the collective black experience. This is an important tool for white power as these athletes are some of the wealthiest and most popular colonized people among us.
For decades professional athletes as a collective have at times shown they have some semblance of social awareness, often putting on liberal spectacles through their clothing choices or taking a knee. Spectacles with no real action behind them.
This is probably to the dismay of early pro-basketball players, like Bill Russell, who risked their livelihoods speaking out for civil rights. However, since 2014 the players have become more aware of the collective power they hold.
As the league desperately searches for a way to salvage their ‘19-’20 season amidst the colonialvirus, players began a new coalition. The coalition, headed by African players, Avery Bradley and Kyrie Irving—vice president of the NBA’s labor union—put out a statement to ESPN. In it they proclaim:
“[As] Native indigenous African Caribbean men and women entertaining the world, we will continue to use our voices and platforms for positive change and truth.
“We are truly at an inflection point in history where as a collective community, we can band together — UNIFY — and move as one. We need all our people with us and we will stand together in solidarity.
“As an oppressed community we are going on 500-plus years of being systematically targeted, used for our IP [intellectual property]/Talent, and also still being killed by the very people that are supposed to ‘protect and serve’ us.
“WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!”
This seemingly powerful statement was backed by liberal demands of equality in hiring and requests that league ownership invest into social justice reform, as well as impoverished communities in their respective areas.
As revolutionaries, we know that, if met, these demands will bring no material change to the conditions of Colonized people in the imperial core of amerikkka. They will only serve to create more wealthy colonized individuals, and further invite billionaire investors to flip colonized communities for profit. There is not even a demand for a living wage for people working at the plantations they call arenas.
These players hold so much more collective power than they realize. Now is not the time for half-hearted and empty liberal demands. Now is the time for action.
That being said, here are some suggested demands that need to be made by this new coalition as well as the players’ union.
- Abolishment of ownership as it is a parallel to slavery.
- Forfeiture of all team-related assets to the players. Affording them the right to collectively determine the future of their team.
- Forfeiture of all stadium-related assets and profits to the workers of those stadiums as to be distributed throughout the community by said workers.
- All profits received by owners through ownership of these teams paid as reparations to African, Indigenous and Colonized folks.
- The media rights deal taken out of the hand of ownership and used to pay living wages to players, staff and those working in the media. Leaving the excess to also be paid as reparations to African, Indigenous and Colonized folks.
- The dismantling of the commissioner’s office and its replacement by a coalition of players from each team.
- The nullification of the collective bargaining agreement and its replacement by a plan created by players in collaboration with the Colonized community to find a means to redistribute wealth created by these teams.
These are just some of the demands that could bring material change and self-determination for Colonized people. However, these demands, if not met, must result in a refusal to play; and if not addressed in a timely manner, must be met with an entire replacement to the slave ownership group known as the National Basketball Association.
This may be a tough reality to face, especially for players with heavy investments like James, but it is tangible. Professional basketball players are in a unique position where their jobs are not replaceable. If they were to operate as a collective they hold 100 percent of the power over their ownership.
This collective black power scares white power and is seen as a direct threat. That is why they want these players to “shut up and dribble”; not because they are annoyed, but because they are scared.
Now is not the time for empty demands. Now is the time for action. Players should realize their collective power and use it to fight for a world where no one lives at the expense of another.