The Race Card Had Nothing To Do With Artest’s Suspension; The Green Card Did

By Gregory Moore
Updated: November 26, 2004

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are trying to save the NBA from itself by letting David Stern use their ‘green’ cards to stop the internal bleeding of the league.

SAN ANTONIO, TX— – I have a favorite subject for this site and pretty much everyone knows it by now. It’s the race card. Have I played the race card myself in my writings? Oh sure I have. As a matter of fact I play the card both on a subtle level and blatantly every chance I get. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe. But then again that’s all a matter of subjection because I think I play the card when I am hammering an issues that the Black community needs to get an understanding. One very good instance is this piece right here. Not only will I play the race card but also I am going to use it in a fashion that will either piss you off or make you stand up and clap for joy. What’s my basis for playing it this time? Very simple. I think that Billy Hunter and Charles Barkley simply don’t get the point about Ron Artest’s suspension. Whether they like it or not race has a part to play in the decision but not at the level they want to contact the NAACP. No Artest’s suspension has everything to do with the color money; not his skin color.

Consider this to be the playing of my Green card if you will. Let’s really get an understanding why Barkley, Hunter and so many others are clearly in the wrong on this issue and I’m going to use a set of conversations I had at a recent Spurs game and a taping of a webcast that I do to prove my points. To begin with let’s look at what precedence Artest’s punishment falls up under. In case no one can remember, the 65 game suspension that Latrell Sprewell received some time back was at that time, the most severe punishment a player could get. That is a little over 75% of the season if I’m not mistaken. When Commissioner David Stern first imposed a suspension, it was for a year. Whether folks want to believe what I am about to tell them right now as fact, the truth of the matter is that when Sprewell got the initial one year suspension it was to send a message to the league that assault on anyone will not be tolerated. What does Artest get? The same punishment. What he did was assault; plain and simple. Whether the Oakland County prosecutor charges him with a Class B misdemeanor of simple assault and battery or kicks it up to a more serious counts, assault is assault no matter how you look at it.

However let me throw a little wrench into the works here. Stern also had a precedent of protecting the sponsorship and the NBA product when he suspended Sprewell and he is following a similar guideline with this current situation. Let me point out that I will indeed agree with Barkley and Hunter in that the disparity in the NBA product to its clients is indeed huge. This is indeed the only sport where the players are majority African American while the big-ticket holder is white and from corporate America. There are indeed some serious race relation issues still brewing in today’s society but that has nothing to do with the fact that the product itself needed to be protected from a climate that was detrimental to it’s survival. What Stern did was to protect the product because sponsorship money was in jeopardy. It was a green issue; not a black and white issue.

So what does this actually mean to Joe Fan? Simply put what Stern did was to stop the hemorrhaging that has been going on in this league for over a decade. Outrageous behavior from players and fans has become the norm and Stern needed to stop it. This was the point during a discussion this past Thursday at a television station in which I took part in a webcast of a NBA roundtable discussion. We talked about how the violence that started with Vernon Maxwell and when he went after a fan in the stands. That was in 1993 or 1994 I believe and he got a ten game suspension. Then we look at Sprewell. His incident was in 1998 and he was gone that whole season. Then you have other smaller incidents that have happened over time in between all three that we are talking about. Barkley himself has been in numerous incidents including one where he spat on a child. Dennis Rodman has been involved in a few including kicking a cameraman right in the gonads during a game and smashing equipment. Stern has dealt with all of these and has come out unscathed. He has also been able to put a bandage here or a tourniquet there to stop the wound that went from a small knick to a gash to an open flesh wound. Where he is at now is where major sponsors, namely the beer distributors, could be facing a situation that would jeopardize their market share in and outside the NBA. Stern couldn’t have that and Artest just so happened to be the fall guy for this one.

Was it necessary for Stern to play the Green card in this matter? Put it this way: if Stern did not do what he did, this situation would not be on the front burner like it is now and there would not be thousands of people trying to find out how to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again. Was the fact that Artest was Black have anything to do with his suspension? Not any more than Larry Bird is white and he did a public relations maneuver in saying that the team would back their players. Guys like Barkley and Hunter are looking for firebombs to ignite on racial grounds because that is what they have been believing for years. To them and countless others they think that the game is in trouble because “master has laid down the law”. Well ‘master’ ain’t done a damn thing but actually show some wayward children that they need to get their stank selves together. This isn’t slavery times despite what Barkley and Hunter may want to believe. The NBA is a corporate entity and like any good CEO, Stern wanted to real in his company from a dangerous situation. Forget the race card in the traditional sense on this one folks. The card that was played was the Green card and I’m not talking about your American Express card either.