Mark Cuban stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest yesterday when an interview with Inc. Magazine was published covering amongst other things, Donald Sterling. Cuban’s comments were wide ranging and generally well thought out. The gist of it was we all have prejudice and bigotry, whether big or small, so who are we to throw stones at Donald Sterling’s glass house?
Of course, most of that was overlooked as Cuban decided to use an all too-oft used example of a situation where plenty of people show prejudice and judge others, a black guy in a hoodie. Yes, this was in many ways distasteful, so much so that Cuban actually took to Twitter to apologize and specifically mention Trayvon Martin and his family in his apology.
But this does not remove the fact that Cuban spoke a lot of truth in a short two-minute clip. Yes, we all do have prejudices, whether we admit it or not. They exist.
It could be as simple as, picking the white guy for your team because “well, he probably can shoot,” or something with more venom like, “I bet this shitty driver up here is old and or Asian.” We are all guilty of this. Whether we choose to voice it as vehemently as Sterling is another story, but we are conditioned through our own experiences or the experiences of others to classify people and groups of people in certain ways.
We laugh really hard when our favorite comedians go into their bits based mostly around racial stereotypes because we, too, have noticed these ticks of their personalities or cultures and decided to make a blanket statement and apply this to a humongous group of people. And also because we are human.
An ESPN firing squad rushed to condemn the Dallas Mavericks owner, and Cuban took it in stride, responding to ESPN employees Bomani Jones, Jalen Rose and Bruce Bowen amongst others over Twitter, predominantly over his hoodie comment. Never mind the fact that the hoodie stereotype is, whether we like it or not, rooted in some truth, something Jones even admitted as he proclaimed to Cuban that he had in fact been robbed at gunpoint by, of all things, someone in a hoodie.
Famously, when the LRG Dead Serious hoodie became a popular fashion fixture in the community, it was eventually used as a disguise in robberies as far away as Australia. However unfair, these trains of thought don’t sprout up from from sheer imagination. Now, is wearing a sweatshirt with a hood the same as having tattoos on your face? Or is either indicative of being a criminal? No, of course not. But have the idea of these appearances been cultivated in our country as threatening in specific settings? Yes, they have and many would say with reason.
What Cuban is saying is no different than me getting worried whenever a cop is behind me. Not because I’m some criminal, but because through my experiences, cops usually bother me more than help me. Is this true of every cop? Of course not, but in our culture this has become an acceptable prejudice, even though it is no different than the types of people that make Cuban feel threatened.
I love to say “fuck the police.” It’s become an iconic symbol of defiance and protest against injustice not only in rap music, but in urban culture altogether. With that said, Cuban and I are both are pretty ignorant for these prejudices and predetermined stereotypes, but we would also be silly to just plain pretend they don’t exist.
The interview was longer than the 10 seconds it took him to make the hoodie analogy, and despite the fact that is where many focused their energy and harnessed their negativity, outside of that, Cuban raised some very interesting points. Clearly, his reasoning for speaking out in the first place is multifaceted. Like David mentioned yesterday, surely Cuban is poking and prodding at newly minted NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Also, having been one of the first to not blindly condemn Donald Sterling, but instead practice patience, many are writing this off as Cuban defending Sterling. It couldn’t be further than the truth, as he has stated several times that he does not at all agree with Sterling’s statements or opinions. Instead, he is protecting his livelihood, as an owner and a human with opinions on things.
Cubes is smart, and he realizes the dangerous precedence that is being set with the Sterling case: any owner who mouths off (and Cuban has proved to be particularly mouthy), be it racist, sexist, homophobic or whatever else is in the realm of offensive can and will be persecuted and punished to the fullest extent by the NBA, and in most cases rightfully so. But where will the line of offensive and acceptable be drawn? Will it be a clear defined line or will it reside in an ever-changing gray area? It’s a line that needs to be clearly drawn in the future, because the precedent will be in place to simply remove entire ownership groups for the mistakes and poor values of one of the owners.
What makes this an especially slippery slope is the fact that Sterling committed no crime. Is he guilty of being a bigot? Of course, but is he guilty of any kind of criminal activity that could land him in jail? No, not even close.
We are allowed to have our opinions and values, no matter how shitty or racist or offensive they are. As Cuban noted in a longer interview, “There is no law against stupid.” Cuban is wondering if the punishment will fit the crime next time an owner is offensive. Maybe he’s even wondering that this time and he is noting that many things we all say can be labeled as such.
According to Cuban, Sterling was guilty of being a human. Albeit a pretty despicable one, but still a flawed and opinionated human, basically what we all are. Cuban jumped on the sword, saying he is just as flawed, even if his views aren’t as offensive or controversial, and in that sense he isn’t too dissimilar to the rest of us. In the hypersensitive culture that social media creates, many things can be labeled as offensive, even Cuban’s comments here are being treated in a similar fashion as Sterling’s, would it be fair if Cuban were to lose his team now as well?
It’s a dangerous game that the NBA is playing, and the reverberations from the Silver’s decision and punishment of the whole ordeal will shake league to its very core.
And set a precedence it may not be prepared to handle.