Why Are Caucasians Disinterested in the NBA?


By Paul M. Banks

There’s a very popular website entitled “Stuff White People Like.” I’m guessing you won’t find the NBA featured there and that’s a crying shame because the Association’s level of play is as exciting and entertaining as it’s ever been! The game is taking off all around the world as most of the website hits for NBA content come from outside the United States.

But I live in Chicago, the best sports town in the country. Nearly all of my white friends, who LOVE COLLEGE basketball and follow it religiously, ignore the NBA. Even during the postseason when the Bulls just played in the most exciting playoff series in league history. My Caucasian friends were more interested in the two local sub .500 baseball teams. And it’s not just my social network, or a Chicago thing; it’s part of a larger overall trend.

Is it just plain racism? The NFL has just as many players shooting their guns off in strip club parking lots and getting into fights. Baseball and hockey have just as many, if not more thugs in their respective leagues. In all of these sports, it’s just a tiny fraction of players who are malfeasant and miscreant- the overwhelming majority just go about their business and stay out of trouble

Yet the NBA (and no other league) is somehow stuck with the “collection of thugs” pejorative. You’ve heard the ignorant and incorrect slams over and over again: “no one plays defense, they don’t try, they’re a bunch of gang-bangers and lazy thugs.”   stephenjackson

I asked sportswriter Dave Zirin (author of four books and a column, Edge of Sports appearing on Sports Illustrated’s website. Also host of XM satellite’s weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio) about how these racist sports fans mask their bigotry, and also what type of things I should say to them in order to set them straight.

“They use euphemisms. I would say: first, you don’t know what you’re missing because the product is as good as it’s ever been. They got rid of the rules that inexplicably led to Steve Nash becoming a two-time MVP, made the game a lot more exciting in my book. I hated hand-checking and second, do you or do you no believe in racial profiling? And if people think that you can determine someone’s character based on the color of their skin and how they dress, that’s racist. If you’re deciding not to watch the NBA because someone has tattoos, that’s racist. They’re like ‘oh black people, tattoos, baggy jeans.’

That’s why I opposed the dress code stuff from David Stern and his whole move to give the league quote, red-state appeal. Those are Stern’s words by the way. Not that I disagree with him trying to broaden the sport or get into new states-  that’s cool as hell, but the way he was doing it seemed to say, you have uncertainties and fears about these young black guys with the corn rows and I’m going to validate your fears and do something about it. So instead of trying to build bridges and acknowledge that the reason there’s this gap between the black experience and the white experience in this country, has a lot more to do with gentrification, with stratification, with white flight, the deterioration of our cities, the gap between rich and poor. Instead of the NBA being a force for actually trying to be a bridge, David Stern took another approach and said ‘I’ll keep these guys in line,’ Zirin said.

During the last 30 years, the American middle class has dwindled significantly. The very rich have gotten much wealthier and the percentage of people living below the poverty line has shot way up. These trends increased at an even faster rate during the past eight years. NBA marketing followed suit, raising ticket prices to a ludicrous level and pricing out the middle and working classes. The league is still doing well from a financial standpoint, but suffering greatly from a public relations perspective. The league’s leadership demonstrated business acumen, but holds horrible misperceptions about American society. However, it’s not all their fault, as the media has dropped the ball on this too.

To quote a 2007 column of Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock: “It would {also} help if well-intentioned media offered some depth to their analysis of America’s complex racial dilemma…Black NBA players have aligned themselves in terms of attitude with hip hop/prison culture. Every one pretty much acknowledges that the NBA’s predominantly white in-arena fan base has a problem with the league’s hip-hop/prison image.”

I asked Zirin about the league’s blatant attempt to market itself to just the very top and the very bottom classes in American society.nbadresscode

“Stern even said, when talking about the dress code, words to this effect: we have to make the game attractive to our ticket buying fan base, it may not have been ‘attractive’ but the part I’m quoting verbatim is ‘ticket buying fan base.’ When you have tickets that cost an insane amount of money, I grew up in New York City I remember being 12-13 years old and me and my buddies pooling our allowance and going to see Magic Johnson or Jordan, you could do that.

It’s crazy and that’s true across the board in sports, but it’s especially problematic and destructive in basketball, because David Stern very artfully marketed hip-hop in the 1980s. He made the NBA a hip-hop league and made it very attractive to African-American youth, but also whites that were maybe looking to mainline a little bit with some black cool. He did that, but now the status of the league is on an anti-hip hop mission,” Zirin responded.

Clearly, the league has painted itself into a corner regarding how they’ve marketed themselves. The NBA’s relationship with hip-hop culture has become maladaptive, disjointed and conflicted. That could be a big reason why the Caucasian consumer class, middle class and working classes who embraced the game during the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson/Michael Jordan era are long gone, and probably not coming back any time soon- unless the league higher-ups take a long, hard serious look at how they promote, market and price their product.

TSB Valentine’s Day Survival Guide

By Rikki Greenberg & Melissa Wollering

With Valentine’s Day approaching fast, TSB’s two female contributors thought they would try to put their fellow male contributors (and readers alike) at ease during what can be a tense Hallmark Holiday weekend.

RG: Burning number one question, Melissa.  There’s so much pressure to get her the perfect gift.  Is this really necessary?
MW:  I don’t know if it’s the retail industry or materialistic women making a bad name for the rest of us, but you don’t have to buy me a thing.  I’m a busy person and the person I’m dating is likely a go-getter and workaholic too. If anything, I’d appreciate some time spent together and it doesn’t even have to be on the 14th. Any night that week, come over to my house, make me a drink, let’s watch some NCAA basketball I DVR’ed and didn’t get to watch yet. Then let’s go to bed, but not go to bed. Rikki, what are your thoughts?

MW: If your significant other insists on getting you something, what would you actually appreciate?

RG: That’s a toughie. Victoria Secret is nice, but I tried that once and my booty was a little too bootylicious for them. I would have to say something personal, like a really sweet Bears jersey or a $100 gift certificate to Ulta. When I get a gift like this, I know my guy has been paying attention and that always puts a smile on my face.

MW:  Bootylicious, huh? Nice. I would have to say it’s not cliché to go VS for me. New Victoria’s always makes me feel good about myself and if it makes the guy happy, slam dunk. If however, that’s all he’s ever gifted me after 2 years, I may start to become concerned…

RG: If your boyfriend/husband/significant other gave you the Vermont Teddy Bear I see advertised on SportsCenter how would you react?

MW: Dude, keep your money, save your cash, hold onto your pesos. Buy us two tickets to see the Badgers play the Gophers or find the teddy bear you had as a child and give it to me.  Both earn you more points. Shooting from beyond the arc actually takes less effort. Think about it.

RG: First of all, I love all your basketball analogies and we must have been separated at birth because I share the same reaction to this question. If I got this present, I would deeply rethink the relationship and come to the conclusion that my guy doesn’t know me at all.

MW: Do you have any professional athlete Valentine’s Day stories?

RG: Besides the dream of me and Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker getting married in the Bahamas after a two year courtship filled with hot, passionate love, I would have to say no to this one. The dude is super fine, so ask this question again in a couple years and maybe I’ll have a better answer for you :)

MW:  I’m coming to your wedding, my dear! I have a story: Chris Capuano, 2006 National League All-Star team pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers, did not fare well in baseball last year, but he hit the jackpot in love.  The 30-year-old LHP left-hander missed the entire season after reconstructive surgery on his left elbow, but it gave him the time to seriously date his long-time love interest Sarah Clifford. They started seeing each other when both were students at Duke.  Chris popped the question in June – something he would not have been able to do while on the road mid-season. The couple got married November 29th in Maui, Hawaii.  See Pete, off-season anniversaries rock.  Now they live in Scottsdale, Arizona, perfect for spring training.

RG: Of course this article begs the question: Melissa, are you single?

MW: Intelligent readers will notice I wrote “person I’m dating is likely” above.  You get the hypothetical connotation. Rikki, you? C’mon…give me the scoop.

RG: Oh the dreaded topic that’s my love life. I’ve been single for 24 years now and my VIP card to the singles club doesn’t have an expiration date on it, so I’m going to say yes to this question. However, there’s a slight wave in the ocean, so I might have to rethink about laminating my card.  It’s time for the 2009 V-Day Survival Guide Shopping List. We agree, it’s not wrong to spend money on something you’ll BOTH use…Beer Pong it up with your woman!  Melissa, aren’t you a b-pong aficionado?

MW: That’s what my Facebook TSB Officer Description says…Banks is recommending this to the guys trying to win my heart. But again, I don’t like people spending money on me.

RG: I am head over heels in love with this gift!! There’s nothing I wouldn’t love more on game day than to dunk my Frito Lay Tostitos Scoop chip in a cup of sour cream and onion dip from a Chicago Bears helmet. Should I hand you a Scoop chip Melissa?

MW:  Yes!  Crunnncchh. Yum. Now to wash it down. Chick Beer comes in Michelob Ultra’s Lime Cactus, Pomegranate Raspberry and Tuscan Orange Grapefruit.

RG: That’s right, 6-pack if you like her, 24 if you’re really in love. No more blue foldable chairs you see at baseball games! The inflatable tailgating chair comes with a beer holder and a mesh pocket to store more beers. Got grease stains and puddles of Bud Light on your new tailgating partner? No problem! The chair is washable so eat and drink away!

RG: Chicago Bears blanket? Check. Chicago Bears lighting fixtures? Check. Chicago Bears Ultimate Game Day Recliner? I knew I was missing something!

MW: Everyone seems to want my full-size portable Coleman grill when I’m tailgating at Miller Park.  Consider any Pro-Team Grill Cover, or go Busta Rhymes and buy your woman a “grill” at Thug Fashion’s website.

RG: A fan isn’t really a fan until every inch of his or her property is covered with team memorabilia. The bathroom may be painted white and black, but I bet the car is lacking a little team spirit. Ride in style and support the cause with a blinged out license plate from your favorite team. (Editor’s note: You guys HAVE to see the Soxcave- Soxman’s crib is pretty much like what you’re describing above!)

MW:  Guys always love a new Bears Jersey. Go his & hers and ask the wife to sport JUST her jersey and nothing else around the house all weekend.   Honestly, we don’t mind as long as you think it’s hot. Remember, it’s all about you. Rikki, would you agree?

RG: Of course! If I have the opportunity to slink around in my favorite player’s jersey, I’ll not hesitate to take it. If it results in a sexy game of tackle football, even better!!
His –
Hers –

RG:  Or you can forget the jersey and wear nothing but these fantastic NCAA slippers or pair of Chicago White Sox socks!!

MW: Reading material for the bathroom is great. We know you guys follow the latest trends on the runway, so why not catch up on the latest in swimsuit fashion?
SI Subscription:
SI Swimsuit Edition:
Sports Illustrated NFL Book

RG: You can’t go wrong with a baseball signed by a big time major leaguer. Bonus points if he or she is a member of Red Sox Nation or a supporter of Big Papi.