As the basketball world continues to process and respond to the Bruce Levenson situation, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has chimed in with a somewhat different opinion.
The NBA legend contributed his thoughts on Levenson's email's content to Time Magazine, where he often contributes to discussion on racial issues. The whole thing is worth a read, but the gist of his piece is that Levenson's thoughts came from the mind of a businessman, not someone with racist tendencies. An excerpt:
In the email, addressed to Hawks President Danny Ferry, Levenson wonders whether (according to his observations) the emphasis on hip-hop and gospel music, the fact that the cheerleaders are black, the bars are filled with 90 percent blacks, kiss-cams focus on black fans, and timeout contestants are always black has an effect on keeping away white fans.
Seems reasonable to ask those questions. If his arena was filled mostly with whites and he wanted to attract blacks, wouldn’t he be asking how they could de-emphasize white culture and bias toward white contestants and cheerleaders? Don’t you think every corporation in America that is trying to attract a more diverse customer base is discussing how to feature more blacks or Asians or Latinos in their TV ads?
To me, he raises a good point. As he points out later, of course a lot of the things Levenson said were cringe-worthy. The stereotypes, assumptions and crass way he laid out his research made me, and almost everyone else who cares about the NBA, upset. The guess that white fans don't come to games because they're racist and scared of black people is not good. But as someone who's lived in the south her whole life, I know there's some truth to it all. There are racial issues and tensions here still, and no end in sight.
That said, Kareem, somewhat like Levenson, oversimplified the issue. His concluding sentences:
He wasn’t valuing white fans over blacks, he was trying to figure out a way to change what he thought was the white perception in Atlanta so he could sell more tickets. That’s his job.
To dismiss it as just acceptable facts of someone doing his job is not enough. There has to be some accountability for expressing thoughts as tactless as Levenson did.