Guns, Race and Sports

People in the United States do not want to hear this. White people, Black people, people. But especially White and Black people. Black and White people.

Even the juxtaposition – Black-White – is a contrivance, a sick trick of the mind.

Racism exists today at its vile best.

Racism has been transformed from a visceral reaction that can be quantified through action taken that can be photographed and videotaped to a malleable non-thing: one day it stares us in the face, another it is said not to exist at all; one day it touches nearly everyone, another we are celebrating a so-called Black hero.

But take a look around. Take a close look, closer than ever.

We have a bi-racial president who is perceived to be Black in the tradition of one drop means you are three-fifths of a human. Barack Hussein Obama is said to be the nation’s first Black president, not the first bi-racial president. That hero? Probably an athlete. Certainly not a lawyer or doctor. Certainly not a fireman (few Black men or women pursue that profession and those who have face 1964 racial treatment).

Take a look around.

Just hours after Tennessee defeated Memphis, four Volunteers basketball players, Tyler Smith, Melvin Goins, Brian Williams, Cameron Tatum, all Black, were pulled over because police said they were speeding (75 mph in a 40 mph zone), smelled marijuana and alcohol emanating from their rental car, searched the car and found guns. Let’s see police roll up and see —- four Black men, all young, in a car not belonging to any of them. It is a rental car. Smith is the Volunteers high school All-America recruit. Two guns are found in the car, one of which has no serial number.

That’s right these four men had weapons in the car because, what…

Volunteers chat boards are rife with people supplying information indicating that Smith was dealing drugs on campus and that the university’s athletic department knew it. Tatum, 21, is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and having an open container of alcohol. Smith, 23, is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of firearm with an altered serial number. Goins, 22, is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of marijuana, a schedule VI drug. Williams, 22, is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm with an altered serial number and possession of marijuana.

Notice the police cut Smith a break. He did not get charged with possessing or being under the influence of alcohol or marijuana. If he can wriggle out of the gun charges, he’s good to go as far as continuing to play hoops. The implication here is that either someone within the police department or some booster mad a phone call to the arresting officers and ordered them to alter Smith’s charges. The further implication is that one or more of the other players must take responsibility for the guns and probably get thrown off the team by head coach Bruce Pearl while Smith skates away clean. Oh to be one of the top players on a highly-ranked NCAA hoops team.

Talk about 40 million dollar slaves.


Now Volunteers fans are on the ready to denounce the young men. And the language is of the thinly-veiled racist variety. Anger toward the four can be readily understood, but after incidents like this, the Southern university verbiage is universally over-the-top angry and universally leans heavily toward racially tinged to outright racist.

The overall feeling among the “fans?…” Got ’em. Pot and guns. Guns and pot. Tennessee Volunteers basketball players? It’s the usual. Get them ni***** out of here. They come to our city thinking they run the place. Not on our watch. This is what happens at Tennessee. These n****** come here and screw up a god thing. Give a n***** a rope and he makes a noose. To hell with ’em; hang ’em high…

No one wins in this situation. No one learns. No one grows.

Yes, 40 million dollar slaves…

Take a look around.

Racism is what allows Dana Jacobson to look at Tiger Woods’s image on the cover of Vanity Fair and ask innocently, “Does he have the right to do this? I don’t know.”

Given the nature of humans relative to color, when do we ever ascribe to anything a hue it is not?

When racism rules the day, the millennium, the written history of human beings is cheapened.

It is not murder because the cheapening is worse. At least taking another person’s life has a conclusive end. Making us cheap, on the other hand, had, has, and will continue to have consequences that result in death every day; actual deaths and psychical deaths. And the taking of psyches equates to walking, waking dead humans – automatons whose acts and thoughts can be plotted on a graph or expressed with a Bell Curve. They no longer can be perceived as individuals capable of independent thought. They are zombies ready to do the bidding of those who need them – and they are cheap.

Take a look around.

Gilbert Arenas is so focused on his profession but so immature that he knew of no place to get his guns out of the sight of his young children other than to bring them to his place of work, the Verizon Center. He gambles with teammate Javaris Crittenton on the team’s flight home after an away game. Arenas loses. Crittenton wants his money. Arenas chides the young player, saying he will not make good on the bet. Crittenton takes Arenas, a known goof ball, all-too seriously. Crittenton tells Arenas he’ll shoot him in his bad knee. Arenas goes into his locker breaks out his guns from their lockbox, places them on a chair and tells Crittenton to pick one with which to shoot him in his knee. Crittenton takes one of the guns and throws it on the floor and walks.

Someone, somewhere in that locker room that was supposed to be a band of brothers – a team – was watching this incident and felt it best to call a reporter from CBS – Ken Berger – and tell him about the incident. Peter Vescey of the New York Post gets wind of the tale and calls his only contact to Crittenton, a friened of a friend the guard hasn’t spoken with in nearly a year. In other words, a potential hater on the far outside of a circle of friends of which he does not belong.

In typical hater fashion he spins a yarn to Vescey that Crittenton and Arenas drew guns on each other.

OK Corral, Alamo, Wild West-style. Twenty-first century gang style.

Dreams of Black thugs with violent rap music blaring in the background dance in writer’s heads:

“Got my 17-shottie,Dreams of Gotti,I’m the don of this here thing,Got the heater an’ you feel the pain I bringAs I sling —- bullets through your flesh,That bullet-proof ain’t got a tight enough meshTo stop my life taker,Close your eyes son, prepare to meet your maker…”

A hater acquaintance sets up the scene and Vescey and Berger and whomever at Yahoo and Mark Stein at ESPN and Mike Freeman at CBS Sports and all the rest of the writers who thought by watching OZ and the Wire or American Gangster and talking with real G’s like Erik Kuselias got them deep in the minds of young, urban-raised men Then they made the story of an overgrown child acting a fool into a national news-stopper that requires the attention of people like those at Fox News, CNN —— and Al Sharpton.

And when Reverend Al insinuates himself into a situation, you know there’s a pay check to be made. You see, each day Sharpton awakens, he steps outside, licks his index finger, and sticks it up to find the direction of the political winds. Then he hits the virtual newspapers across the country and watches all the right morning shows to see where his next dollar is coming from and off whose back is he making that dollar.

Then and only then does he shape his words for the public:

“The NBA needs to stand up and send a strong message by dealing with this situation,” Sharpton told the Daily News. He also chided black leadership groups for not speaking out about the “culture of violence being perpetuated in professional sports.” Sharpton cited former Giant Plaxico Burress as an example of professional athletes run amok…

“”If it had been a white player pointing a gun at a black player, there would have been much more of an uproar,” he said. “It’s almost as if people are saying, ‘Well, we don’t expect anything better from our black athletes.'”

That’s what Al said because that’s what Al does. Money over morals. Vanity over values.

And he has a little cousin named Stephen A. Smith:

As much as I’ve tried to disagree with my friend and noted contemporary, Jason Whitlock, who’s repeatedly and vociferously lamented the state of affairs within the Black Community — specifically as it pertains to the negative parts of Hip Hop and its influence on Black culture — it simply cannot be denied any longer.

Genocide is taking place in the Black Community, and this is a form of it.

For every foolish act like Plaxico Burress, Ron Artest or Arenas, there’s a Grant Hill, Shane Battier or LeBron James — guys who will be employing Black athletes one day, either in an executive or ownership capacity.

But their behavior is not what is influencing Black America’s youth, specifically its cultural ambience. It’s the culture of tattoos (jailhouse or otherwise) enjoying increased prevalence and notoriety. This hyper-masculinity syndrome. This alpha-male environment that stimulates the worst in an educated individual like Crittenton (Georgia Tech), preventing a sensible young man raised by both of his parents from walking away from a crazy incident that could cost him millions in potential earnings. Even worse, it’s jeopardized the career of Arenas and his six-year, $111 million contract, plus an additional $50 million deal with Adidas allegedly over a gambling debt that amounted to less than $500.

“It’s truly sickening,” one African-American front-office official told me Sunday afternoon. “There’s just no excuse for this. This is a $4 billion industry guys are trying to turn into a $2 billion industry. There’s just a flagrant lack of appreciation for the position they’re in … mainly because of someone wanting to look more like a man, not be punked, acting literally like prisoners locked in a prison yard with one another. It’s utterly ridiculous.

“I don’t know how anyone would feel about this, because some folks truly believe we won’t have these problems if the league reduced the maximum years of guaranteed deals down to just three years. I’ll go a step further …

“Lock the damn players out. Shut the league down for a year and see what happens when these guys are not cutting these checks. I bet you the few who don’t act right will straighten up then.”

Sadly, we can only suspect there’s truth to that argument.

The argument that can no longer be made, however, is that actions like the one Arenas committed are just that of the few. Not because it’s untrue, but because few people care. Mainstream media didn’t spend the weekend bantering about Arenas. They used Arenas to bloviate about “why do these athletes carry guns?”

It’s the same question they asked about Plaxico Burress, while he was walking into a jail cell.

It gave them an excuse to bring up Michael Vick, even though his crime involved dog fighting.

It provided an excuse to bring up Ron Artest, the league’s $5.8 million average salary (highest of any sports league), feeding the rationale for a debate about whether too much is given too soon to too many who are too undeserving.

This is a battle the league has fought for years. One that Commissioner David Stern has fought so brilliantly for nearly 27 years that he should be an icon in the Black Community. Except Stern won’t be, of course, because of the punishment he’ll predictably bring down upon Arenas once the Wizards’ troubled star receives due process — though it’s appropriate for Stern to step in.

Stern will be the villain, then. Not Arenas. Definitely not in the eyes of Black America.

The thing is, the time has come for the Black Community to join Stern in his fight against such utter nonsense.

Smith talks the talk of lawn jockeys everywhere. Hold the lantern for massa so he can see his way in the house why don’t ya, Stephen A.? Evoke the image of Artest, dog Vick, and remind us we still have Plax.

“Boo,” said the Jigga. “Boo,” said the Jigga. “Boo,” said the Jigga.

And the Jigga said, “Boo!”

How can this be an NBA problem, or a young Black man problem? Or a rap music problem? Or a gang problem? How can that be, Al and Stephen and Bob Ley who, on ESPN’s investigative news show, Outside the Lines he hosts, said, “The NBA has a gun problem.”

How can this be Bob when you hosted an OTL special about guns and professional athletes and the star of your series was ——— a White baseball player? Stephen A., you worked at ESPN when that special was aired.

You mean to tell me you both forgot the player said most, if not all of his MLB-playing friends are strapped; that he said he stays strapped and if anybody wants trouble he’s not afraid to shoot first and ask questions later?

Did no other sports writer or columnist in this country watch the week-long OTL special on guns and athletes? Didn’t hear about it? Didn’t know someone who DVR’d it?


So, it’s just the NBA, eh? Not Major League Baseball. And when it’s the NFL, it’s only black NFL players like Plaxico Burress. You mean to tell me that if Jared Allen faced someone who wanted his money and one of his guns was near he wouldn’t draw down? You mean Jared Allen has never, ever been a little too toasty, hangin’ with his buds, and never once brought out some heat and brandished it? Not in a mean-spirited way, but in a, “I can cap a fool, too,” way.

You mean Jared Allen has never, ever did something so stupid and goofy like challenge a bud to a little game of bullet or knife chicken?

You know, goofy, kinda like Gilbert Arenas, except Agent Zero had the forethought to disarm his weapons?

And the chat among no-sports fans revolves around people wanting Arenas to lose everything. They want him to receive a lifetime ban from the NBA; not just a one-year suspension wherein Arenas stands to lose $10 million of his $100 million contract, but everything.

So the question must be asked, did anyone call for actor Charlie Sheen, who has a long record of mal-behavior, to lose everything when he was drugged to the nines, or when he brandished guns, or when he beat his wife?

Thought not.

* * *

Sure, NBA commish David Stern was bound to suspend Arenas. And that’s probably in addition to any criminal penalty he might or might not receive. But does that solve anything? Does that take care of “the problem?” No.

Will Stern punish the Washington Wizards organization which, according to the earliest reports, knew Arenas brought the guns to the Verizon Center? Will Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld be charged as an accomplice in the case against Arenas (if there is one)?

Thought not.

Does suspending Arenas mean someone won’t get killed one day – perhaps in a locker room? No.

None of it means a thing, not even a locker room shooting death. That would only result in requisite shows of sadness, some empty promises, and a Congressional hearing on guns and sports. Congress people will invoke “the kids” like a sorcerer reciting an incantation, expecting so many little dead souls to take ghostly form and waft into the hearing room, translucent, bloodied from bullets, and moaning. Athletes and commissioners will pledge this and that and give so many dollars to whatever catchy-named anti-gun legislation. All involved will paste on their somber visages for the entirety of the hearings, the press will debate the non-issues and in the end, cave to the proceedings, and the public will be duly fooled.

And nothing at all will change.

The song will remain the same as long as the gun problem is a Black or NBA problem.

That is a race and racism problem. And as long as race and racism is the context for action, there will be no action at all. There will be no remedy.

There will only be division. And anger, And hate. And unlawful laws. And more wringing of hands and transposed anger.

The “gun problem” is not a problem with one race. Nor is it a problem with guns.

The gun problem is an American problem.

The gun problem is a manifestation of how America views itself. And a manifestation of how Americans view each other.

In America we are taught that life is cheap. Violence fills out television screens somewhere 24 hour a day. Sundays from September to February violence augments church as our national religion in the form of NFL football; Saturdays we prepare for church by studying the scriptures put forth by NCAA football.

Thou shalt hit the opponent with all thy force. And the congregation will scream and writhe in ecstasy at the sound of bodies and pads colliding. From noon Eastern Time to midnight, of you wish, Americans heads are filled with extreme interpersonal violence on a green field.

All in preparation for Sunday’s mass.

In America we produce video games that mimic war; where we shoot demons —- and each other, if necessary.

In America we glorify Sicilian and Italian killers. And their Jewish and Irish Catholic counterparts. Hell, for decades our national police force – the FBI – denied the Mafia even existed. And when it was called by named, it was automatically romanticized by Hollywood because, hey wait, they’re White, too.

American already here taught those immigrants to hate themselves and taught them that their lives were worth nothing, the wops, and hebes, and micks. Once America realized it needed more armed forces, more industry workers, more cheap bodies to feed the machine, they let Hollywood step in and supply these immigrants with a sense of worth.

And that was on top of the niggers who were already only three-fifths of a person. And the nips and spics weren’t any better.

That doesn’t even count the indigenous people already here who America scalped and shot and gave blankets to imbued with smallpox virus. The ones who didn’t die were displaced and herded to the most barren lands in this land. Then America called them “injuns” and “redskins,” and whatever else popped intoits collective head.

When factions in our government finds they can grow an underground economy by feeding people who have already been taught well to hate themselves with guns and make a killing by killing people with guns they deliver to their projects and their neighborhoods, America reminds us all how cheap we are.

When America decides to protect its “national interests” by sending its poorest people to distant lands to line its front lines and fight its wars, America reminds us how cheap we are. When the people who do return are treated as if they did nothing at all, let alone put their lives at risk each and every day, and live in fear of dying every day, America reminds us how cheap we are.

When industries dump billions of tons of waste into our air and our water supply, and ruins our soil and our bodies with pesticides and genetically-engineered seeds that grow into bastard foods, America reminds us how cheap we are.

This is The Problem, writ large.

This is why Gilbert Arenas can sign a $100 million contract and never think for one second to even consider maturing. This is why four college basketball players can celebrate a win with a booze and pot cruise in a rental car while two of them carry weapons. This is why a White Major League Baseball player carries multiple weapons in his truck always on the ready to be attacked so that he can gleefully take another human’s life. This is why playing bullet chicken on a too-buzzed with alcohol night is a rite of passage. It is why skins lie on floors and antlers hang on walls, and furs hang off human bodies.

America has a problem, and America’s dependence on racism, guns – and violence – and death by violence are its natural offshoots.

Gilbert Arenas, the four players from Bruce Pearl’s Tennessee basketball team, the police who seemingly pulled them over because they are Black, Al Sharpton, and the writers who call for extreme punishment of the young men instead of writing with the knowing that their every word carries with it great weight – this is what happens when life is cheap.

If you could ask all the people who have died because of what afflicts America, I bet they would tell you just how expensive death is.

And how cheapened we, the living, are as a result.

D. K. WILSON writes for Sports On My Mind. He can be reached at: