Essay
08.28.2020

Woke theatrics from corporatist sports must—and will—have consequences.

On March 11, the NBA shut down following Rudy Gobert’s tragicomic presser. The decision was heralded for putting the nation on notice about the threat of COVID-19 and making known to Americans the need to “flatten the curve.”

Fast forward five months and the league is a superspreader of a contagion of a different sort: the racial hysteria emboldening anarchic mobs and the justification of the wanton destruction of American cities from Portland to Kenosha.

In the midst of America’s heightening regime crisis, the NBA is now a leading contender for Most Valuable Provocateur among the big corporate players zealously waging our current cultural revolution on behalf of the Left. The NBA now serves as an example to everyday Americans of the insanity—and the stakes—of what is taking place throughout our nation.

As if shutting down for a few months wasn’t enough of a hit to the league, on Wednesday, it scrapped three playoff games after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play in wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in their home state. Only passing mention was made of the wider riots, fallout, and subsequent deaths that have occurred as a result. In a matter of hours the remainder of the fraught 2019-2020 campaign looked jeopardized as a discussion about the possibility of a permanent strike swirled.

Thankfully—though this depends, really, who you ask—the NBA will resume play this weekend now that a social justice coalition has been established. (No word on whether or not this coalition will take up the cause of the Uighurs, who currently face genocidal extinction at the hands of the NBA’s most favorite do-no-wrong country, China.)

But you know what? Pulling the plug altogether might not be a bad idea. We’re dealing with the worst NBA administration in history—and the worst NBA season in living memory.

It started with the tragic loss of basketball legend Kobe Bryant and eight others in a horrific helicopter crash this past February. Then came the pandemic from said most-favorite Communist dictatorship. Now this.

Small wonder NBA ratings are down 20% from where they were at this point during last year’s playoffs.

So, sure: let’s just cancel it.

It’s a win-win-win. The league will get to orgiastically offer itself up to the woke mob and benefit from a reup of the fawning coverage it first received when it went all-out on backing BLM (on which, more later).

The players will no longer have to live like guinea pigs in the magic kingdom bubble they’ve been imprisoned within this postseason—tested, tracked, traced, and cut off from family all for the reward of playing in a third-party arena filled with a whole lot of nothing. (Hey, at least now they know how Uighurs feel!)

The fans will be spared the chore of watching a game in which commentators Doris Burke and Mark Jones fist-bump through the plexiglass divider that comically separates them in the press box, with a zoomed-in audience that manages to look even more awkward than the pixelated NPC crowds filling the seats in NBA2K, and courtside billboards proclaiming a “WHOLE NEW GAME.”

Less clear is what owners and those on the hook for franchise finances think about all this.

No matter. As a major entertainment business, the league knows the show must go on.

Sports have the power to authentically inspire and unite. America could benefit in this way from basketball, a game that beautifully celebrates teamwork, creativity, and hard work. But now that all forms of popular media and entertainment serve as appendages of leftist politics, this is a no-go.

Instead, the league is trying to inspire and unite through the banality of performative wokeism. Rich coaches and celebrity sports stars tweet-shouting about systemic oppression, demanding ill-defined change, and then retreating to their multimillion-dollar mansions, nicely ensconced from the roving mobs they help rile up and then bail out of jail? Are you not entertained?

No—because these days, they don’t want to entertain. They want to propagandize.

And for all their trouble, according to some, the NBA still won’t be doing enough. BLM itself did issue a statement thanking the NBA for “supporting black lives,” but everyone knows that imprimatur only lasts so long as is convenient for America’s new mob. The League now belongs to the woke Left’s extortion racket, which means any time the mobsters want they can come back to demand another pound of flesh.

It can never be enough.

Vanguard of the Pro-letariat

This train wreck of an NBA season proves revealing in a number of ways.

It decimates the illusion that big business is in any way an anchor of moderation and nonpartisanship in American life, as opposed to just another compromised institution—along with the media, universities, and the public school system—used by the Left to bludgeon deplorables out of wrongthink and cudgel undesirables into adopting newspeak.

For example: has Commissioner Adam Silver, or anyone in the league, for that matter, read the all-revealing “what we believe” section on blacklivesmatter.com? Do they understand whom they’re assisting?

Is championing an organization that openly aims to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure” and supplant it with encouragingly Maoist “extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another” in line with the league’s values?

How does “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking” factor into the league’s goals?

It’s difficult to see where exactly all this BLM psychobabble fits in with the NBA’s mission of “growing and celebrating the game of basketball.”

Does the league intend to box out bigotry and “make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead” by increasing the representation of the gender dysphoric on every one of its 30 teams’ benches?

I’m sure executives are champing at the bit to develop innovative 5-year-plans aimed at “co-creating alongside comrades” and to “engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts”—as soon as they manage to figure out what the hell that’s supposed to mean, of course.

And I bet Commissioner Silver is prepared to take the great hopstep forward, be “self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege,” and help smash the patriarchy by resigning his post and “passing the mic.”

Drag Queen Dunk Contest, anyone? Anti-American intersectionalists are definitely a rapidly growing demographic and will make up a key audience to which the league will surely cater.

The cognitive dissonance, the ill-guided belief in corporate boardrooms in the NBA and beyond that the movement won’t eventually come for the entirety of their businesses, and eventually their jobs, homes, and families, is gobsmacking. Girondins don’t understand—or don’t want to admit—that Jacobins mean to do precisely what they’ve stated they’ll do. Trying to ensure corporate longevity by openly siding with a group and philosophy that aims to dismantle the nation doesn’t seem like brilliant strategic planning.

Recent weeks of the season have also revealed how utterly shallow and abjectly devoid of nuance all this social justice LARPing is. Take the “completely voluntary” (wink) word-vomit activism being worn by 285 of the 350 players in the league. The hodgepodge includes:

Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.

Quite a bit going on here: nice-sounding nouns and concepts that nobody disagrees with, an affinity for the imperative mood, the UFW-slogan-cum-Obama ’08 campaign motto, and an economic theory from the 1960s. And, surprisingly, advocacy for school choice?

Taken together, these phrases say everything and nothing.

Sure seems like some of them ring hollow, too. It’s a good thing Clippers center Montrezl Harrell wasn’t rocking “Anti-Racist” when he called Luka Doncic a “bitch ass white boy” during LA’s Game 3 against Dallas. He’s since apologized for what was most likely just a stupid comment in the heat of competition. Indeed, there “wasn’t anything racial intended,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers assured us. But flip the roles here. Sincere apology or not, there’d be no forgive and forget.

Doesn’t the NBA condemn racism, bigotry, and prejudice in all its forms? It’s also interesting to see who’s chosen not to play walking billboard for these micro-protests and why.

Notable players include Lebron, who declined to sport a phrase, saying “it doesn’t resonate with my mission”; Anthony Davis, who opted to represent his family name “and people who have been with me through my entire career to help me get to this point”; and Kawhi Leonard, truth-sayer: “It doesn’t matter if we have a statement on the back of our jersey, it’s about doing the work.”

Even for these stars, though, there is no escape. They are not unquestioningly compliant with the increasingly suffocating woke culture. They must explain themselves. But because they’re big names, big philanthropists, and they’re black, they can get by.

But God forbid Daniel Theis, a German, decides he wants to represent his family name and honor those who helped him get to where he is. Cue the implied-guilt logic of “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” This would be a golden opportunity to employ the favorite slur of leftists who project fascism.

For most, there is no opting out of this paradigm, and no room for discussion. All views and opinions are welcome, except, of course, if they’re not. You’re either an “ally” or a dead man.

“Love Us”—or else.

Only in a nation clueless of history, a country of the un-read, unschooled in the foundations of freedom and its underlying logic, can such bankrupt ideology and activism take root.

A Vignette of Our New Order

An image from a playoff game last weekend keeps coming to mind.

Back on Sunday, August 23, the Boston Celtics swept the Philadelphia 76ers to advance to the second round of this year’s anomalous NBA playoffs in Orlando.

While all Eastern Conference games are being played in three arenas across Disney World, the court was branded as if the game were taking place in the City of Brotherly Love—where, were it a normal year, the Sixers would’ve hosted the third and fourth games of the best-of-seven series on their home court at Wells Fargo Center.

Thus, the hardwood was painted with the team’s legendary 1964-1977 logo, the 76ers’ hallmark through multiple brand redesigns over the years: a red “7” with a circle of 13 five-pointed stars above it, and a navy-blue “6.”

This is arguably the most patriotic team emblem in the history of American professional sports. The circle of stars is a nod to the Betsy Ross variant of Old Glory, representing the 13 colonies that signed the Declaration of Independence. In 2018, in an effort to refresh their brand following a bumpy 3-year rebuild dubbed “The Project” during which the Sixers came within one loss of the worst record in league history, the team doubled down on the War of Independence ethos and unveiled a new logo: the Liberty Bell wrapped in a segmented snake recalling the “Join or Die” cartoon Ben Franklin published in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754.

Indeed, the branding of the franchise named for the year our national charter was signed is pregnant with revolutionary symbolism and meaning.

So too was the court on which they played the last game of their 2020 season.
The visual hierarchy of the insignia on Sunday’s elimination game floor is a snapshot of the current state of our politics.

The Sixers logo, the spirit of ’76, is at the bottom, semi-obscured by the score bug. Out of sight and out of mind.

Center court and center screen is the massive Jerry West silhouette logo, the corporate shield.

Plastered atop the screen over everything, shrieking in 2020-point Arial Bold: BLACK LIVES MATTER, the war cry of the vanguard stoking racial animus, hijacking the just-cause rhetoric of the Civil Rights movement, and bloviating, bullying, and burning their way to a takeover of America’s public and private institutions.

This is the pecking order of our new regime in a single frame: identity politics over everything, corporate overlords (now underlings?) second on the totem pole, and last—certainly least—the country, and everything it was founded on.

Equal rights to the wind. Reverse Jim Crow inbound, ladies and gentlemen. While we’re at it, let’s also cancel the 76ers for imperialist imagery and get rid of Boston’s Lucky the Leprechaun, whose pasty Irish complexion isn’t representative of the diversity of our county. Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone Defense must be added to every playbook.

To counter this insanity, Americans will have to opt out of the now-established order: the media, the sports leagues, and their corporate sponsors.

You’ll need to tune out of certain broadcasts and log off platforms. I’d walk outside and go shoot some hoops over watching basketball on TV any day, but your mileage may vary: cities like Los Angeles have seen fit to clamp 2x4s on the rims around the city to save us all from COVID. Discrimination against the pickup baller community.

Back to the 76ers/Celtics game, late in the 3rd quarter. With two minutes left, Tobias Harris took a nasty fall, bouncing his head up off the court face first. Blood was visible on the hardwood. As he lay there, others called for help. Medical staff held up a closed fist—no, not that; they were making the sign for trauma—and stopped the game. Luckily Harris could get up and walk off.

If the politics of this league, big business in general, and their enablers keep up, and more broadly if people keep tacitly endorsing it because it’s easy and they want to do what’s comfortable, how long before the republic as we know it will take a fall and be unable to get back up?

Will we as Americans recognize the signs of trauma shown by the republic and get it the aid it needs? Will we preserve and restore our way of life?

Will we pivot anew to the Big Fundamentals, a measured, laborious dedication to founding ideals and work ethic and teamwork? That’s the San Antonio Spurs style of play—though their longtime head coach Greg Popovich, and the only man who can rival him, the Warrior’s head Coach Steve Kerr, are huge social justice corporatists.

It’s late in the 3rd quarter for us, too. Let’s not get up off the bench and check into the game too late.

is a strategist at a leading professional services firm.

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