Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigin is an ambitious sort, like many venture capitalists. He wants to make the Bucks into “the most successful and respected sports entertainment company in the world,” and you can’t have that sort of goal for an NBA team in Wisconsin without some real gumption. And no matter what you think of that mission statement, the man has stones — the stones to stand before the Madison Rotary Club and say this about the Bucks’ hometown of Milwaukee:
“Very bluntly, Milwaukee is the most segregated, racist place I’ve ever experienced in my life. It just is a place that is antiquated. It is in desperate need of repair and has [been] for a long, long time.”
It’s no less monumental a task to build the Bucks into the premier sports team in the world than it is to use any sports team to fix the segregation and systematic racism of a whole city, but that’s the way Feigin and the Bucks’ new ownership group thinks. He’s not wrong, either — by census measures, Milwaukee is indeed the most segregated city in the country. On the below map, courtesy of NY Mag, you can see it all laid out.
Each color represents a different race, with blue dots for whites, green for blacks and yellow for Hispanics. You can see for yourself just how little intermingling there is, and just how stark of a division there is between the ethnic downtown areas and the white suburbs. It won’t be particularly surprising if defensive white people disagree with Feigin or even insult him for saying it publicly, but when a member of the Bucks, 6-foot-11 John Henson, literally has the cops called on him while attempting to shop at a jewelry store, it’s hard to argue that there aren’t prejudices at work in Milwaukee.
It’s a tough thing for a city you love to be talked about in this way, but Milwaukeeans would do well to resist the urge to tune out Feigin and listen when he says he wants to use the Bucks to help fix the problems in the city. If he can meet even a small part of that lofty goal, maybe his other ambitions aren’t so crazy.