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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Two words: Pat Burke (some thoughts on anarchy and basketball)

I don't talk about sports on here too much, but I think damn near everyone knows that tomorrow's a big night for the Suns. Although it's decision to suspend Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw is unjust, the NBA has inadvertently provided us a great lesson in why anarchists are against law.

The law, like this NBA rule, is written by people other than those affected by it, and those who make the law, or those with a lot of power, money, influence or privilege can receive exemptions. Further, the law attempts to pre-imagine a set of circumstances and then pre-judge whether those circumstances justify being treated as offenses in the future. When real life happens (and it rarely matches up with the limited imaginations of politicians and commissioners), those pre-imagined rules are then applied after the fact. Hardly fair.

We see this in the case of the most recent suspensions of Suns players. Everyone is pretty much unanimous that neither Stoudemire nor Diaw deserve to be suspended for their actions. Even Charles Barkley came to their defense, although Shaq, always a lover of law and order, notably disagreed. No matter, though. According to the NBA, a rule's a rule, and the two players must be suspended, no matter how justified were their actions or whether the rule was even meant to apply in these kinds of circumstances in the first place. This effectively makes the Suns twice victims of Horry's rough and unsportsmanlike behavior.

Anarchists, unlike the NBA commissioner, cops and politicians, don't place mechanistic process or sticking to the letter of the law above the goal of achieving justice. In fact, many times sticking to the letter of the law - or even the intent - can lead to unjust outcomes simply because the law itself is unjust. Think about segregation, slavery and the subjugation of women - all were the letter of the law at various times. Homosexuality has been and in some states continues to be illegal. Arizona only very recently repealed its sodomy law. Getting justice in those times generally meant breaking the law. The law, it turns out, is very often not a very good way of judging what is right. Sometimes, in fact, it's the exact opposite: the law can be a great way to find out what's wrong.

So, in the spirit of the game, I will post here two sports-related articles that I think readers of this blog might find interesting. First is a New Republic interview with Charles Barkley, former Suns star. In it Barkley says a lot of provocative things that anarchists will find interesting and, perhaps, surprising. Like this:
CHARLES BARKLEY: Illegal immigration to me is the easiest thing in the world to fix.

TNR: How so?

All they have to do is penalize the people they work for. You should get penalized. It's all poor people who argue over illegal immigration. They want poor people to--I call it divide and conquer. That's all they do is divide and conquer.

The rich people are trying to divide the poor people?

Yes, they got all the money, they got all the power. Whether it's that, or they divide you racially on certain things. They divide you racially, economically, and on things like that. It just splits the vote, and the rich people still end up on top at the end of the day. They control everything.

So is that what interests you primarily--economic issues?

America is divided by economics strictly. You know, people always talk about race, and we have racial problems in this country. Of course we do. But the real issue is the rich against the poor. We've got to get poor white people and poor black people and Mexicans to realize they are all in the same boat. If you in one of those three groups and you are poor, you are going to be in a bad neighborhood, you are going to go to a bad school, and you are going to have strikes against you. You can't commit crimes in good neighborhoods. They will get your ass. Their kids go to private school, or they go to school in a good economic area. But the poor people, they are all in the same boat but they divide you based on race or stuff like that. A lot of these politicians say things like "We've got to stop all these illegal immigrants." I am like, "That is so easy to stop." They are not working for other immigrants.

Has your perspective on these issues changed in the last few years?

Yes, when I realized that rich people will always be rich and the poor people are like crabs in a barrel. They are going to fight with each other, but they are really in the same boat. They want you to argue about gay marriage. They want you to argue about the war in Iraq.
Check it out. It's not all gold, but there's a lot in there of value.

Also, consider reading this New York Times piece from a couple weeks ago about racial bias in NBA officiating. According to the Times, white refs (cops) called more fouls (arrests) on Black players than on white players.
A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong. They went on to claim that the different rates at which fouls are called “is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.”

“I would be more surprised if it didn’t exist,” Mr. Ayres said of an implicit association bias in the N.B.A. “There’s a growing consensus that a large proportion of racialized decisions is not driven by any conscious race discrimination, but that it is often just driven by unconscious, or subconscious, attitudes. When you force people to make snap decisions, they often can’t keep themselves from subconsciously treating blacks different than whites, men different from women.”

Mr. Berri added: “It’s not about basketball — it’s about what happens in the world. This is just the nature of decision-making, and when you have an evaluation team that’s so different from those being evaluated. Given that your league is mostly African-American, maybe you should have more African-American referees — for the same reason that you don’t want mostly white police forces in primarily black neighborhoods.”
There's a surprise. The NBA commissioner, David Stern, who reportedly just canceled his appearance in Phoenix for game 5 due to the overwhelming shame of carrying through the suspension of Suns players, told the Times that he doesn't believe that racial bias exists in the NBA. True, the NBA has done a better job than almost any other sport when it comes to diversity. Nevertheless, when we add up the referees, 64 percent of them are white. And, of course, only one NBA team has majority Black ownership.

On a final note, I'd like to say just two words: Pat Burke.

All season we've been asking when this man was going to have a time to shine and this is finally it. That ruling was bullshit, but when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Pat Burke: Our Lemonade. Tomorrow is your night, buddy. Make it count. I believe in you.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

They hardly gave him a chance.

Thu May 17, 08:14:00 AM 2007  

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