We employ critical race theory or CRT as a tool for interrogating the presence of Hip Hop music in NBA stadiums because it centers the discussion on race and racial inequalities from the perspective of non-white people. CRT is also useful, because it is attentive to the social, economic and political conditions in which a particular phenomenon takes place. When it comes to analyzing the NBA, many people, especially white people, make the assumption that because Blacks make up a huge majority of the players in the NBA, that the NBA must be inclusive of Black voices and Black leadership. And, certainly an analysis devoid of a CRT perspective could easily come to this conclusion. However, when a CRT lens is applied, the element of power is illuminated. Blacks may make up the vast majority of the players, but as we document here, Black men (and we chose the gendered term to denote the fact that Black women are nowhere to be found outside of the traditional roles of mother, wife, baby-mama or hook-up) have absolutely no power in the NBA; they aren’t coaches, managers, and certainly not owners. The recent hire of Canadian Steve Nash as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, is a case-in-point!
And, although we quibble with Rhoden’s concept of the forty-million dollar slave, the CRT lens applied to the NBA reveals that the players occupy the same role that Black people have since they were kidnapped and brought to the “new world:” they are there to make money for white people. And, though the work of the NBA is much more interesting than the work of a slave, and the compensation is undeniably better, the NBA is a modern day version of the same racial formations that have always existed. Black mens’ bodies are exploited for the entertainment and money making of white men. (We also gender the language here in that although the white women as wives and daughters benefit from the capitalism that white men engage, just as the mistresses on the plantation did, women, like the players, have no power in the system.)
EARL SMITH & ANGELA J. HATTERY