03.30.07

The Apologists’ Ship Be Sailing

Posted in Basketball at 1:31 pm by

We are a couple of days beyond suspended Albany Patroons coach Michael Ray Richardson’s ill-advised remarks concerning big time Jewish lawyers (if not his way of dealing with hecklers), and there’s a few persons who suggest Richardson’s been dealt a raw deal.

Joey at Straight Bangin’ observed,

Michael Ray (above) seems to be more along the lines of the funny antisemite rather than the dangerous antisemite. Amidst all the stupidity in the world, sometimes you just have to laugh. And really, I think he was trying to be nice in a weird way. I probably shouldn’t write that, but the guy didn’t say he hated all Jews or wished that they’d go back to making bricks in Egypt. It wasn’t a message of intolerance. He said Jewish people are crafty (which, we can all agree, is dumb and negative and not well thought out) and then cited what he thought was proof of it. I mean, does anyone think he was being purposely malicious? I think he was being dumb. And there are, in fact, a disproportionately large number of Jewish men who own teams or run leagues.”

While I can’t really disagree with much of the above, I do think the line between “funny” and “dangerous” anti-semitism is awfully thin unless someone is willing to call the dopes in question out.

No Mas’ Christopher Isenberg — who profiled Richardson for the Village Voice in February of 2000 — cites some of that story’s more colorful quotes in putting Michael Ray’s return to the headlines in perspective.

Michael Ray Richardson doesn’t speak politically correct English. He isn™t the guy who knows it may be more expedient to say: “The Jewish people have a deeply celebratory spirit.” He™s the dude that says, “Them Jews know how to party!” But if you hear him say it, you know his heart is in the right place. He was proud of James Brown, and he was happy that Israelis could appreciate a performer who he felt represented to a certain extent the collective spirit of his people. It clearly made him feel more at home and more comfortable in Israel. If they could truly appreciate James Brown, you could feel him thinking, maybe they could truly understand and appreciate him.

I really can™t think of any better way to illustrate that Michael Ray is the opposite of a racist. Confronted with the reality of Israel he abandoned preconceived notions and evaluated people on how they actually behaved. Michael Ray has done that in every country he™s been to. And that™s why he™s been loved all around the world.

Now because he has the temerity to say that Jews are good lawyers, Jews are industrious people, Jews use their wits to get ahead in a world where they are more often hated than loved, we are going to excommunicate him from basketball like he™s Tim Hardaway or Al Campanis.

It™s not right. Michael Ray is proud to have a Jewish lawyer because he thinks they are the best lawyers. Certainly it™s a stereotype, but it™s a stereotype rooted in a reality. A disproportionate number of the great lawyers in America are Jews. A disproportionate number of the great basketball players in America are black. We have learned to be very careful around these facts because here the line between fact and “stereotype” can get very blurry and if you’re not careful, you can get into deep water real quick. Michael Ray was unwise to have been so indiscreet around reporters, but it wasn’t exactly Elders of Zion territory.

There’s a lot of stereotypes that are to some degree or another, rooted in reality. And some are equally rooted in looking for scapegoats, cheap excuses and ways to reduce another culture to a caricature. I can fully accept that Richardson meant no harm with (some of) his comments, but I don’t think the Al Campanis analogy is inappropriate, either. Jews are inviduals, just like everyone else. I can cite a good number of ‘em with zero connections to media, banking, standup comedy, the music business, basketball or blogging.

OK, maybe only a handful, but a legit handful just the same. Were a sports executive or TV pundit to suggest the success or failure of black athletes was down to genetics, he’d probably catch a bit of heat. I mean, that’s been the pattern.

Seeing as I’ve not even followed the CBA of late (Isiah Thomas keeps insisting they’re out of business), it’s hard for me to propose an appropriate punishment for Richardson. Being drummed out of pro hoops seems awfully harsh, and perhaps either a public apology or clarification of his remarks would’ve done more good. I’m not sure how Richardson can clarify calling a paying customer a fucking faggot (if in fact, that’s what he said), but I’ve yet to seen anyone —- Isenberg included — excuse that alleged outburst.

Somewhat lost amidst the MRR controversy is Albany falling behind Yakima, 2 games to none in the CBA finals. Amongst the highlights of the Patroons’ 92-87 loss Wednesday night was F Carl Mitchell throwing a punch at teammate Felipe Lopez (yes, that Felipe Lopez). From the Albany Times-Union’s Tim Wilken.

The two had a misunderstanding under the Yakama basket at the end of the first half. Mitchell said Lopez was mad at him for taking a bad 3-point shot. Lopez said Mitchell said something unflattering about him to one of the Sun King players. Lopez hit Mitchell on the side of the head and, while Kareem Reid tried to step in and keep the two apart, Mitchell hit Lopez in the face.

“He came up on me and swung and punched me,” Mitchell said. “He started coming up on me and I was like, ‘if someone is going to punch me …’ I feel bad because that ain’t me, man. Your own teammate punch you during a game? What the hell is that?”

Lopez said he was embarrassed about the situation.

“I heard him (Mitchell) say something and it was bad,” Lopez said. “I’ve been playing basketball for a long time and I wasn’t comfortable with what he said. We exchanged blows. I was not going to take it lightly.”

One Response to “The Apologists’ Ship Be Sailing”

  1. Charles says:

    As a Jew with contacts in law, media and standup comedy (that haven’t done me a bit of good, career-wise), I’m cool with MRR.

    I’m much more saddened seeing “Felipe Lopez” and “Kareem Reid” in an article about the CBA. I went to that 1994 McDonald’s game at Alumi Hall and, sadly, the predictive ability of that game wasn’t all that good. Jerod Ward washed out particularly badly at Michigan. Foyle and Fortson threw down hard, though.

Leave a Reply