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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The 'Whites Only' Professional Basketball League

On Martin Luther King Jnr. Day no less, Don ”Moose” Lewis a Southern gentleman with more money and/or chutzpah than brains announced the formation of a Whites only professional basketball league. To play in the league you have to be an American citizen born from Caucasian parents. There are many in the South who still yearn for the Confederacy but this is ridiculous. It’s possible he isn’t aware of the Civil Rights Act but you’d expect him to notice that segregation is a distant memory even in the backwaters of Alabama.

Privately I‘m sure many closet racists applauded the announcement but publicly the idea was treated with ridicule and bemusement. Augusta was chosen as one of the cities to host an all-white team. Ironically, Augusta National, America’s most revered golf course and host of the Masters looms large in the history of racism in sports. It only relaxed its rule of not allowing black members after 1990 and then only because the PGA said it would no longer sanction tournaments at clubs with exclusionary policies after the President of the Shoal Creek Golf Club in Birmingham, Alabama hosts of the 1990 PGA Championship refused to alter their policy of not admitting black members. Augusts quickly changed their policy and admitted a couple of black members. The club still has no women members, only relenting by putting them on the waiting list in 2004 after a controversy that caused the Masters to be shown without commercials for two years. The women on the waiting list are still waiting to be admitted six years later.

Charlie Sifford, one of the first black professional golfers was never invited to play at the Masters. One year he was leading the Canadian Open after the first round. The winner was given an automatic entry into the Masters tournament. The PGA immediately announced that their new policy was that the Canadian Open winner would no longer automatically qualify for the Masters.

Lewis claimed that he wasn’t a racist, "There's nothing hatred about what we're doing," he said. "I don't hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here's a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like." Don’t ask me what ‘fundamental basketball is’. Lewis’ rationalization can best be paraphrased as wanting a league where all the players have good manners.

"Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" he said. "That's the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction." This crotch grabbing obsession that is destroying the very fabric of our society has to stop. The “Moose” is making his stand.

Nothing much has been heard from Lewis in the past month and I don’t see any likelihood of a ‘whites only’ league. It’s a stark reminder that segregated sports endured long past World War II and that racism, though not as overt as it used to be is still present in America. Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia recently claimed that Health Care Reform was the biggest outrage since the Yankee War of Aggression. If it wasn’t for that damned war, blacks would still only be working in the kitchen at Augusta National.

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