On activism in sports, moral-licensing, and the NBA’s ongoing failure to speak clearly on human rights abuses in China.
On September 17, 2020, the Los Angeles Lakers captured their seventeenth National Championship in franchise history, led by Finals MVP LeBron James. The event marked the end of a season that will go down in history as perhaps one of the strangest to date, and its completion without a single positive coronavirus test certainly makes it one of the most impressive. Aside from the NBA being the one of the first substantial sectors of the American economy to fully shut down operations as the coronavirus arrived on our shores, the uniqueness of the 2020 season was marked by the unapologetic and fully immersive embrace of social justice activism by the league and many of its star players, upon restarting in July. Activist slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” were displayed on jerseys, the court, and in promotional media. Players were free to select from a number of league-approved political statements to display on their jerseys, and kneeling during the National Anthem was such a universal act that Magic and Heat forwards Jonathan Isaac and Meyers Leonard turned heads as the only players to defiantly stand for it in pregame ceremonies. Many have expressed annoyance with the NBA’s decision to mix politics with basketball, while some others have become interested in the league specifically due to the league’s projected image as a progressive force for good. Whether athletes and sports leagues should stay apolitical to help preserve sports arenas as last bastions of common interest and togetherness in a rapidly dividing nation should be up for debate, but as complicated and worthwhile as that debate may be, it is not the one worth having right now. The NBA’s over-the-top embrace of social justice activism as a brand is scarcely more than a last-ditch effort to cover up what is an ongoing moral failure. …
How one unconventional trade can save two NBA franchises from irrelevance and local indifference.
On August 31, 2015, the Sacramento Kings promoted an advisor of the franchise to the role of General Manager. That man was Vlade Divac. The promotion was significant not only because the team’s relatively new ownership was making the assumption that a former NBA All-Star could guide the franchise into the future, but it also indicated to fans that the glory days of the turn of the millennium were not completely forgotten. Those glory days were short lived, but as they were the franchise’s one flirtation with relevancy (let alone greatness), fans have struggled to let them go. Embarrassingly, the Kings organization and fans’ alike have been stuck in the early 2000’s ever since, and season after season, the teams lose game after game. The organization has not been to the playoffs since 2006. At 14 seasons dry, they are in sole possession of the second longest playoffs drought in NBA history. If the organization hopes to find success entering the new decade, the ownership must make bold changes to the culture and makeup within the organization. …
A personal account of how the Sqirl jam controversy took shape and what to make of it.
On Sunday, July 12, a photo of moldy jam went viral on social media. Far from being the most important topic in the news that day, it likely escaped your radar, but accompanied with it was the accusation that Sqirl, a hip, cultural-icon cafe at the edge of East Hollywood and Silverlake, has been selling moldy jam to customers who pay upwards of $14 per jar. This photo horrified some, confused others, and struck those who had prided themselves on resisting the inexplicable trend toward expensive toast with the keenest sense of schadenfreude. In the hours following this new controversy, a dark web of various allegations about the cafe and its owner, Jessica Koslow, began to find light and quickly the jam conversation had spiraled into the stolen-work toxic-environment lack-of-diversity gentrification conversation. …
How cynical opportunism threatens the movement for social justice.
On May 31st, 2020, amidst a newly reopened national conversation about race, ignited by outrage over an unspeakable tragedy caught on video, former Sacramento King, Demarcus Cousins reached out to his former coworker, Grant Napear, on Twitter to ask, “what’s your take on [Black Lives Matter]?” What happened next would be sufficient to end Napear’s career with the Kings, for whom he had been the play-by-play commentator for over 30 years. Caught in the middle of a global pandemic and a cultural reckoning, many Americans and people around the world have been cycling between anger, fear, and frustration for the past three months. So many things haven’t added up during this pandemic, and whether you’re left-leaning or right-leaning politically, you likely want heads to roll. As of right now, we have no neatly organized lists of old-guard and intelligentsia to blame for the current destruction, so in its absence, some have taken to satisfying their blood-lust in other ways. Some of this restlessness has kicked off a meaningful and overdue revivification of the conversation about police violence and the blatant inequalities in opportunities and outcomes for African Americans in our country, but as in any frenzy, the scene is ripe for opportunists and for the settling of old scores. These old scores may be relevant to the issue of the day or not, but the opportunity lies in framing more than substance. Napear has found himself caught in the middle of an old fight, a new fight, an opportunity, and an old acquaintance seeking revenge. …
WILL WORK FOR FOOD
What does it mean?
Mom, that man with that sign over there-
Where does he come from?
What does he need?
“Here’s a dollar, but come right back over here.”
I have a dollar, mister
“Thank you my boy”
What does it mean you’ll work for food?
“I have no other options, no other means
But I have arms and legs,”
This much can be viewed.
Why do you sit on the ground?
My dad wears a suit
And buys my lunch and my dinner
Do you have a dad?
Do you have a suit?
“I had both, but I wasn’t a…
What cancer taught me about how we should be living right now, under the threat of COVID-19.
In 2013, when I was a senior at UC Davis, my mother was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. I wish I could say this was a shock to me at the time, but it wasn’t. Not because I was expecting it (she wasn’t a smoker), nor because it was common amongst people I knew, but rather because my involuntary response to this information was one of paralyzing denial. My mother, the most health-conscious person I knew from ages zero to present day, who had just overcome one horrific health episode involving UCSF gastroenterology experts “out of town for the weekend” and a perforated colon during a reluctant colonoscopy, had lung cancer? I didn’t buy it. If she does have it, which she probably hardly even does, she’ll come out of it. She’s strong. We’re a strong family. We’ll get the best medical support in the world and find some way to pay for it. This is gonna be a tough year. That’s what I can remember thinking at the time. Sometimes I wonder if it was my selfishness that caused me to have such a non-reaction. That may be part of the answer, but my mother’s brave head-on attack mode combined with calm confidence is what more likely caused me to brush it off initially. At 21, I was still a child. I had grown up in some ways, but she was still my mom. She knew the right answers about diet, professors, and relationships. If she says we’re going to get through this we’re going to get through this. …
In an attempt to offer lighthearted relief (as well as take advantage of a bored and captive audience) I have dug through old, and previously unshared, poetry that I wrote whilst in college. My prose style tends to be serious, but for some reason I can’t help but write silly poetry. Please enjoy this parody of Robert Browning’s “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” which I wrote about my first few months experiencing LA traffic, after having spent the previous 18 years of my life in a town with a population of 150 people.
Gr-r-r — there go, my heart’s aversion! …