View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Michael Wilbon continues stumpingf or Michael Jordan in today's Washington Post, arguing that black fans, at some level, have a right to feel angry about the way Jordan says he was treated. In the last two days, Sally Jenkins has written persuasively (here and here) that Pollin was right to let Jordan go, that he didn't owe him anything more than a business decision, and that Jordan had alienated practically everyone in the organization without noticeably improving the team.

Wilbon has consistently evaluated issues on merit, but he has a blind spot when it comes to race and the NBA, as though whites own the teams when blacks really should. He admits, offhandedly, that race didn't have anything to do with the actual decision to fire Jordan, which is big of him, but then proceeds to use the racially charged word "exploitation" in reference to the events, and tries to explain to whites why blacks feel so upset over them. Nonsense. If race didn't have anything to do with the firing, then blacks have no valid reason for being upset for it on racial grounds. That's how we evaluate events in a rational manner.

Wilbon not only fails to make this point, he closes the column by implying that he has real sympathy for it. He completely fails to consider that by talking about "exploitation," and bring race into the discussion, he and John Thompson, who has his own racial baggage from his days as Georgetown coach, aren't responsible for it, and couldn't do anything to defuse the complaints. Instead of writing a column explaining blacks to whites, he should be writing a column explaining to blacks why race isn't any issue.

If he isn't willing to do that, he either considers Pollin so incompetent as an owner (not necessarily a wrong-headed view), that he's willing to exploit race to help run him out of town, or he secretly believes that race does have something to do with the decision. The first option makes him just as cynical and irresponsible as he accuses Pollin of being; race is far to charged and important a problem to waste on irrelevent issues. The second makes him no better than a Bill Rhoden, who, near as I can tell, views everything through black-colored lenses.

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