Is LeBron James' New Coach, David Blatt, Racist Just Like Donald Sterling?
Photo by Keith Allison via Flickr cc
During the Donald Sterling racism debacle, LeBron James was quoted as saying "there is no place for [then LA Clippers owner] Donald Sterling in our league." But as it turns out, when he made the bold move to return to Cleveland, he perhaps didn't know about the potentially bigoted skeletons that lurk in Blatt's closet.
Cavaliers Coach David Blatt has openly supported the Israeli assault on Gaza. The victims in this case (the UN reports that three-forth of the 1,900 deaths were civilians), were simply unfortunate enough to be born into the wrong ethnic group in the wrong place, wrong time.
Sterling, by comparison, justified his racist lecture by claiming that racism is normal in Israel. As journalists Max Blumenthal and David Sheen note in a video short for The Nation, there is also a rising anti-African sentiment in Israel, stoked and justified by the idea that it violates the ethnic purity of the state.
But this just compounds an already complex issue regarding minority rights in Israel proper. And taking into consideration the actual brutality occurring in Gaza over the past month, supporting the actions of the IDF reflects upon how these men see non-Jewish minorities.
It is in this context that Blatt said recently, "There's no doubt that we had to act there, so that Israel will have quiet there once and for all and we can live in peace." It's as if the prior 66 years of expelling much of the Palestinian population and ruling over the rest with a military occupation, the slow theft of Palestinian land, and periodic massacres would lead to peace.
By comparison, listen to Sterling's racist exchange with his mistress, saying:
Donald Sterling: It's the world! You go to Israel, the blacks are just treated like dogs. V. Stiviano: So do you have to treat them like that too? DS: The white Jews, there's white Jews and black Jews, do you understand? V: And are the black Jews less than the white Jews? DS: A hundred percent, fifty, a hundred percent. V: And is that right? DS: It isn't a question -- we don't evaluate what's right and wrong; we live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture.
You get the idea he believes that race intrinsically has the value that racial ideology assigns it. And he's wrong.
Similarly, justifying the Israeli occupation -- as Blatt did -- is not right. Ending the occupation for real and granting full and equal citizenship to all cultural groups inside of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza is the right thing to do. Calling for a military assault on a captive civilian population, rockets or no rockets, is more than hard to justify.
MIT professor, linguist, famous Arab sympathizer, born to Jewish parents, Noam Chomsky makes the point that:
"When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing. You can't defend yourself when you're militarily occupying someone else's land. That's not defense. Call it what you like; it's not defense."
And that sums it up pretty concisely.
As for LeBron. If he is taking his legacy seriously, especially after being so vocal about the Sterling tapes, he may want to have a longer discussion with his new coach, because he may end up not playing in a league not just with a racist owner, but on a team with a coach of questionable values.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.