Monday, March 5, 2007
NBA shouldn't turn its back on New Orleans
By Jemele Hill
Apparently not satisfied with all the finger-pointing about what did and didn't happen at the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, Tracy McGrady and Billy Hunter, head of the National Basketball Players Association, decided there just wasn't enough controversy.
So last week, the two further exacerbated things with negative comments about the All-Star Game being in New Orleans next year.
Hunter threatened to sue if he wasn't satisfied with New Orleans' ability to handle the All-Star weekend, and McGrady sounded a lot like my little brother does whenever the subject of roller coasters arises.
"If I don't feel I'm going to be safe, if I am on that team, I will look into probably not even going," McGrady said.
A millionaire not feeling safe? Oh, the inhumanity. Seriously, is McGrady paranoid? He also pulled out of the 2004 Olympics for safety reasons.
Maybe someone at NASA should build McGrady a bulletproof uniform. We would hate for him not to be able to sleep at night in his cushy mansion.
The last league that should even consider turning its back on New Orleans is the NBA, which is full of players who have overcome impossible odds -- you know, the same odds that many New Orleans residents face.
I'm not saying New Orleans doesn't have problems. In 2006, the city had the highest murder rate per capita in the U.S., no doubt a result of losing a significant amount of its police force. But unless the NBA plans on holding the All-Star Game in Greenwich, Conn., crime is going to be an issue just about anywhere. Besides, if the city can handle 800,000 people for Mardi Gras, it can certainly can handle the NBA's signature event.
I know the NBA has taken some hard shots in the last couple weeks, but pulling out of New Orleans isn't going to erase the mistakes made in Vegas.
People have to see Vegas for what it was. It wasn't a black thing or a white-people-being-scared thing, it was a class thing. A large percentage of the league's fan base is made up of people from the inner cities. That inner-city element mixed in with the excessive wealthy types who usually are drawn to Vegas and the All-Star events, and the result was something you might only see on "The Wire." You put Bill Gates in the same room with a street pimp and there's going to be some friction.
Besides, the NBA did an exceptional job of coming to New Orleans' aid after Katrina struck. Several players donated time, money and resources. The NBA didn't turn its back on New Orleans then, so why do it now?