Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Race Card

The NBA wants to institute a minimum age requirement of 20. Jermaine O'Neal of the Indiana Pacers, who came into the league at 18 but didn't start playing meaningful minutes until he was 22, thinks that's racist.

O'Neal said:

As a black guy, you kind of think that's the reason why it's coming up. You don't hear about it in baseball or hockey. To say you have to be 20, 21 to get in the league, it's unconstitutional. If I can go to the U.S. army and fight the war at 18, why can't you play basketball for 48 minutes?

Well, you do hear about an age limit in football, but apparently that's neither here nor there. Sure, it might be weird that at 18 you can join the Army but you can't join the NBA. But you can't get a drink or run for the U.S. Senate legally, either. At 16, you can legally drive your car to a movie theater, but you can't legally see an R-rated movie without a parent or guardian. That's life, Jermaine.

O'Neal didn't go to college, so his understanding of constitutional law might be less than perfect, but, I'm sure someone will challenge an NBA age limit in court. And after the Casey Martin ruling, in which the Supreme Court decided it had the jurisdiction to dictate the rules to a professional sports league, nothing would surprise me.

The racism claim is my favorite; O'Neal is suggesting, of course, the an age limit would only affect blacks, because only black 18-year-olds are good enough to play in the NBA. Which seems to me to be a bit... (wait for it) ... racist!

No, he's saying it would only affect blacks because if they can't go straight from high school to the NBA, the other option is college - and black kids have a harder time getting into college. There's nothing racist about that!
That's true, the only other option is college. Unless you count the NBA Development League, Europe, Australia, the other pro leagues here in America...

Also, there's nothing racist about saying black kids have a harder time getting into college? I guess not, if you're willing to stipulate that black kids are naturally dumber than white kids.
Hm... I should have said: "There's certainly nothing racist about that!!" Where's my damn sarcasm button?
I think the real comparison, though is to baseball and hockey, where he's absolutely right--no one bitches about that (except maybe Billy Beane, but that's a different story). Are you really saying that there isn't an undercurrent in our society that hates the idea of an 18-year-old black millionaire? Particularly one who "should" be helping State U. to the Final Four, but is pursuing the luchre instead? And as for black vs. white kids, has there been even one successful white kid straight out of school (or even an unsuccessful one)? Until the demographics catch up, O'Neal's just telling it like it is.
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