Is the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office white-washing their team on purpose? That seems like one crazy notion here in 2012, but it’s one local black leaders in the Twin Cities have picked up and run with. The team, whose 15-man roster contains only five black players, is under fire by said black leaders, who believe the point of putting together the whitest roster since the Boston Celtics of the 80s is to appeal to their heavily white fanbase.
Before we dive in, let’s examine the T’Wolves and the greater state of the NBA. First, Minnesota’s team is only 33 percent black, well below the 2011-12 league average of 78 percent. I don’t think that’s any cause for racial uproar, but let’s move on. The NBA is an ever-globalizing league. Most of the players from overseas are white, but they are all talented, and the really talented ones are coveted by team owners, general managers, and coaches. Black, white, it doesn’t matter — talent is talent and overseas, it is growing abundant. So let’s examine what people are saying about the snow-capped Wolves (via StarTribune):
“How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?” asked Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul’s African American leadership council. “I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance.”
Ron Edwards, a longtime Minneapolis civil rights advocate, said he remembers a day last winter when he was watching the Wolves and the only black player on the floor was Wes Johnson, a situation he calls “somewhat disturbing.” His sentiments grew stronger, he said, as he watched the team’s roster grow even more white this offseason.
“It raises some real questions to me about what’s really intended,” Edwards said. “I think, personally, that it was calculated. Is this an attempt to get fans back in the stands? Minnesota, after all, is a pretty white state.”
Terrell calls it “scary” that the Wolves would assemble a roster almost 70 percent white in a sport so dominated by blacks. For Edwards, the numbers trouble him by the “historical view,” what he calls a “nullification of diversity and a reversal of history.”
Wolves’ president of basketball operations David Kahn calls the accusations “patently false” and says he has no reason to defend his actions as he is not, in fact (in our words, not his) a modern-day bigot. His naysayers also targeted him for not having any African-American presence in his front office, which he responded as being concerned about, and is trying to diversify “behind the scenes.”
As the article notes, the Wolves tried targeting Nicolas Batum and Jordan Hill this summer. They lost the former to Portland — after “painstakingly” clearing room to match the Trail Blazers’ $45 million offer sheet — and the latter to the Lakers, where he clearly has a better shot at winning a championship. They brought in former all-star Andre Kirilenko to fill the void Batum left. And you guessed it: He’s a white guy! So too are the team’s anchors, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. White they may be, but they also happen to be great at basketball.
Is it fair for black fans of the Timberwolves to want to see more black players on their favorite team? Of course it is. Likewise, I can probably tell you every white guy who’s played for my favorite team, the Knicks, over the last decade. It’s only natural to feel a kinship to players you can associate with in any way. As for it being “scary” or “somewhat disturbing”, let’s just cool our jets here. It’s a white constituency with a white team, a white coaching staff, and a white front office, but I’d like to call that happenstance. Rick Adelman built the team he thought would put itself in the best position to be successful, and even though they’re screwed anyway, it’ll be a competitive team — regardless of color.
And surprise surprise, the players don’t really care. Let’s just face it, the Minnesota Timberwolves are not the white supremacists of the NBA.
[StarTribune, Getty Images]