NBA Stars need to push for Referendum on Racism in San Francisco

Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

National Basketball Association stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James opened up ESPN’s 2016 Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPY) Awards ceremony with what many have called a powerful statement and commitment, to add their voices to this country’s racial tension, caused by American injustice.

The recent shootings of two Black men, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castillo in Minnesota by police, and the Sniper attack by a Black man against White Dallas police; all in the same week, prompted these NBA stars to say something.

But recent history reminds me that the current crop of NBA stars ONLY symbolically are willing to give the shirts off their backs to address injustice and racism in America. Therefore, I highly doubt any are willing to risk their careers by supporting a referendum on racism, in of all places, San Francisco.

The proposed referendum would read: Should the Golden State Warriors be allowed to build an arena within one mile of a hospital that has an emergency room?

This referendum will undoubtedly be asking San Francisco voters to look more closely at what San Francisco City Hall is trying to pull over on the city of Oakland just to claim bragging rights. And what the Warriors are willing to do just to make a buck.

A stakeholder group called, Mission Bay Alliance does not want the Warriors to build right across the street from the newly built UCSF Hospital and they are in court to stop the City and the Warriors from building on the Mission Bay site in what one report called, “Billionaire verses billionaires.”

On their website, Mission Bay Alliance (MBA) has sounded the alarm of building on the site would be a traffic nightmare denying some patients of emergency care due to game day traffic. They even brought into their lawsuit the mother of an 8-year-old UCSF Hospital patient. Juxtapose that tactic with a stronger argument of what the move does to so many in Oakland and MBA sound like NIMBYs who couldn’t care less about any other community impacted by this project.

Common sense tells me that if a Warrior arena was on the Mission Bay site first, UCSF would have never considered building a new hospital across the street from a Basketball arena. So I’m with Mission Bay on that point. But common sense also tells me that Mission Bay Alliance is desperate by using a sick child to make its case.

UPDATED: July 18,2016

Apparently the judge in the case saw that because on July 18, 2016 he ruled against all MBA arguments. They will appeal. And there is one other lawsuit that will be decided in another county soon.

Nevertheless, I’ve seen way too many famous people come in like the Calvary on important issues, but the only dirt kicked up was from the horses as they rode off into the sunset. But the grandstanding by these NBA players is equal to the promises of politicians who only read the headlines and know none of the facts.

April 2014 during the pre-game warm-up of a playoff game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clipper, players denounced then LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling for racist remarks he made during what he thought was a private conversation.

Clipper players gathered at center court and removed their shirts and left them at center court as some sort of statement. — They would have made a more impactful statement had they mooned their boss just before tipoff.

Nevertheless, owners of the other 29 NBA teams followed up the revelation of Sterling’s racist rants with another weak statement when they voted to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.

The Los Angeles Clippers were valued at $450 million in April of 2014. The forced sale of the team went to the highest bidder, which was Steve Ballmer who laughed while using only his piggy bank to hand over $2 billion to purchase the team.

Instead of giving racism a black eye, the NBA, by mishandling this embarrassing racist rant by one of its own, handed a man with racist views a golden parachute that even after the IRS sent its thank you, the 80-year-old Sterling walked off with one billion dollars.

This one sale also greatly raised the value of all NBA franchises at the same time, doing nothing towards lowering racial tension in America. And if the Golden State warriors are allowed to move to San Francisco, I envision a similar fate or worse for the Black communities of Oakland and San Francisco.

It should be the right of any professional team to move to where they can make the most profit as a business. But no professional sports team should be allowed to profit off of racism or disrespecting a community just to make a buck.

The Oakland Athletics are not drawing enough in attendance to argue against their desire to leave town. However, the owners of the team are still raking in millions. How? Major League Baseball shares league revenue with underperforming (financially) baseball teams. In other words, even if the stands look empty at an A’s baseball game, the owner’s pockets are full of cash. So why the owners of the A’s will not invest in a new Oakland baseball stadium? I would argue its racism.

The Oakland Raiders are currently looking to relocate to Las Vegas as a business deal after unsuccessfully trying to move to the LA market or get a new Oakland stadium. I cannot blame the team for looking elsewhere, but this too reeks of racism. If Oakland was known as a White community, the Raiders would have tons of investors lining up. Oakland has a population of 26% Black and 25.7% White.

Looking at the Warriors proposed move to San Francisco is the clearest picture of racism and greed as I see it: Why would the owners of the Golden State Warriors want to leave Oakland? They have sold out every game for the past four years and have a season ticket waiting list of 20,000 for their current location at Oracle Arena. Keep in mind that Oracle Arena holds less than 18,000 so if all were kicked off as season ticket holders they still would pack out this old arena.

If these three teams are successful in moving out of Oakland, I can see Oakland turning into a town where even ghost would be fearful of walking its depressed neighborhoods. Never mind the fact that the concept of “My brother’s keeper” is not to take from but to help or look after your brother.

What city leaders of San Francisco are attempting; by simply supporting this move is, take from our brothers and sisters across the bay. And if people cannot see how the quality of life in Oakland will greatly suffer from this move, how can these same individuals offer up suggestions on how to improve relations between police and the Black community?

And as far as redevelopment of the area after all three teams relocate, it is a safe bet that Oakland, which once had a population of 46% Black and now at 26%, will only find new hope when the Black population of Oakland hits 16%.

“Not in my back yard” (NIMBY) has a racist connotation. However, it has never been a more appropriate term when applied to racism. And it is no stretch to say that a no vote on such a referendum would offer a much needed shot in the arm if you will, of respect between the two races.

History gives the sports community a solid B grade for bringing Whites and Blacks together. But as far as today’s sports community, it’s time to put up or shut up.

1983 to 1993 Bible Study teacher at SF juvenile hall. Currently prison reform activist and author of Case Game - Activating the Activist; an autobiography.

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