Lebron James and other Black athletes assert their independence and
leave their team — or the plantation — some white fans
engage in 21st-century lynch mob activity. This time around, Kevin
Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is the latest to feel the wrath
of fans who assumed they owned said player — or any player.
announced that he is leaving the Thunder and heading to the Golden
27-year-old forward made the announcement on The
Players’ Tribune, of
which he is the deputy publisher, graciously explaining the rationale
for his decision.
has been by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional
life. I understood cognitively that I was facing a crossroads in my
evolution as a player and as a man, and that it came with
exceptionally difficult choices. What I didn’t truly
understand, however, was the range of emotions I would feel during
this process,” Durant wrote.
primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have
it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that
has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a
point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an
opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my
comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest
potential for my contribution and personal growth,” he added.
“With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the
Golden State Warriors.”
NBA star also expressed all that the Oklahoma City organization and
community means to him, and his gratitude for the relationships he
from Washington, D.C. originally, but Oklahoma City truly raised me.
It taught me so much about family as well as what it means to be a
man,” Durant said.
contributions to our organization during his nine years were
profound, on and off the court. He helped the Thunder grow and
succeed in immeasurable ways and impacted the community just the
same,” said Thunder Chairman Clayton I. Bennett, in a statement
Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti added that
“Kevin made an indelible mark on the Thunder organization and
the state of Oklahoma as a founding father of this franchise. We
can’t adequately articulate what he meant to the foundation of
this franchise and our success. While clearly disappointing that he
has chosen to move on, the core values that he helped establish only
lead to us thanking him for the many tangible and intangible ways
that he helped our program.”
move by Durant is worth $54.3 million for two years. And his decision
could be fueled as much by his desire to win championships as his
desire to have access to Silicon Valley moguls to fuel his
the reaction to Durant’s departure from the Thunder bears
similarities to Lebron James’ 2010 departure from the Cleveland
Cavaliers, and then some. Some white Thunder fans have taken to
shooting and burning Durant’s jersey, reflecting that state’s
legacy of lynching those African-Americans who assert their
independence, economic power and self-determination. Think
community of Tulsa that
was burned to the ground and massacred by a white mob.
reactions are rather personal, for an otherwise ordinary business
decision and career move made by a free agent in a professional
man even posted a video of his young son crying in response to Durant
leaving the team.
these most recent white reactions to an NBA player exercising his
independence do not exist in a vacuum. As NBA players, who are
majority Black, earn millions of dollars for their labor, the
predominantly white owners, networks, corporate sponsors and others
make billions and more. And yet, while these Black men
generating revenue for professional basketball are millionaires, they
are regarded as high-priced slaves on a plantation, and expected to
know their place and behave as such.
Gumbel characterized the NBA’s business model as a plantation,
with the role of a master presiding over Black athletes.
“Stern’s version of what has been going on behind closed
doors has of course been disputed, but his efforts were typical of a
commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of
modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his
boys,” Bryant said of then-NBA Commissioner David Stern on
2011. “It’s part of Stern’s M.O., like his past
self-serving edicts on dress code or the questioning of officials.
His moves were intended to do little more than show how he’s
the one keeping the hired hands in their place.”
don’t put up another basketball court thinking that you’re
giving back to the black community … basketball courts are a
training ground for a basketball plantation” said Nation of
Islam leader Min. Louis Farrakhan at a Saviours’ Day event in
Detroit in February of this year, as reported by TMZ.
Farrakhan compared professional sports, including the NBA Draft, to a
slavery auction block in which Black athletes–who often have no
training in handling finances–are exploited. “We
got bought and sold just like that … and that’s what you
do in sports” he said. “You run up and down the
field, you show them how swift you are, how clever you are. And
they’re sitting there watching you, timing you … that’s
a good one, I’ll get him, I’m drafting him.”
when the slaves leave the plantation—such as Durant declaring
his freedom; Jesse
out against Black oppression at the BET Awards; Beyoncé making
a pro-Black statement against police brutality at the Super Bowl, or
a Black man occupying the White House—the result is white
backlash, white tears and white rage. This, as whiteness and
the institutions undergirding white power are placed under
increasingly intense scrutiny.
trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not
the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is
blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations,
and with demands for full and equal citizenship,” wrote Dr.
Carol Anderson in her book, “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of
Our Racial Divide.” “It is blackness that refuses
to accept subjugation, to give up. A formidable array of policy
assaults and legal contortions has consistently punished black
resilience, black resolve,” she added, noting that white rage
maintains both the upper hand and the moral high ground in society.
This commentary was originally published by AtlantaBlackStar