The Elephant in the Room

The NBA handed down suspensions yesterday for Friday night’s brawl at Madison Square Garden. Fifteen games for the Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony. Ten game suspensions each for J.R. Smith and Nate Robinson. Mardy Collins of the Knicks the instigator, is suspended for six games. Four game and one game suspensions were assessed to others. A total of seven players from both teams will lose significant game checks and court time for their respective roles in the melee.

When NBA commissioner David Stern takes action he comes down hard. Stern is widely considered the most effective commissioner in sports with his near dictatorial powers, 10 million dollar salary and an unmatched ability to keep his players in line when they embarrass polite society.

Stern takes action because he sees clearly the “elephant in the room”. He knows all too well that the “elephant in the room” remains race, whether anyone else wants to honestly deal with that fact or not. The NBA’s African American players simply cannot make a scene, let alone come to blows without incurring the wrath of columnists, psychologists and anthropologists.

The image of black men fighting – outside of a boxing ring – is just too scary for most of America to deal with. These “thugs” as some would call them are supposedly a threat to the youth who look up to them and a disgrace to a society that barely acknowledges them unless they are in a uniform or on stage providing entertainment. This is why the great sports master – Stern – has intervened to insure his young men act right, talk right and play well with others.

While 2007 looms, nearly seven years into a new millenium, the fears presented by race still linger. We are still impacted by a centuries old lack of compassion and true acceptance.

African American young men remain the nation’s least educated, least employed and most jailed group of citizens. They also remain the least understood. Too many of them believe sports and entertainment are the only viable legal options to obtaining the “American Dream”. And for too many fans, uniforms and stage gear are the only things that seem to fit the stereotyped notion of what a successful black man should look like.

Thus, the problem is ours – to get over, once and for all. All of us. From the players who act out, to the authority figures who crack down, to the fans who seem to expect nothing better, we all need to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Because until we do we will never be able to deal with it.

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