As the yearly commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is upon us and like other holidays -Halloween, Thanksgiving, X-Mas, Valentine’s Day, etc- the NBA never hesitates to incorporate its players into the celebration of those days.
I started noticing a few years ago that the NBA’s celebration of Dr. King was just the latest example of the over simplification and the striping down of the legacy and contributions of one of most legendary black men and Americans in history. Before I digress let me clear that I am not laying this issue solely at the NBA’s feet; the paring down of Dr. King is a symptom of a larger problem that extends beyond the scope of the NBA.
With that being said. the league certainly plays a part in exporting a sanitized version of Dr. King. It normally gets rolling a few days prior to the actual holiday by running television spots that sets the tone for the annual paring down of King legacy by sloganizing what he stood for. This ramps up until the MLK Day slate of games where in addition to display nebulous, lofty sounding words on ads on the court, the players are asked to share their thoughts and this where it just makes anyone who understands history put their heads through a wall. They sound like third graders trying to give a book report when the only portion of the book they read was the back cover. These interviews are little more than cavalcades of MLK catchphrases. The players made sure they covered all the greatest hits , “he had a dream”, “non-violence”, “justice “, and of course, “ not the color of the skin, but the content of character.” Whether these are just prime examples of the products of the American education system or they are being fed these points from somewhere else , what is clear this is merely a component in what is clearly a concerted campaign to take a black icon and make him more palatable to and for non-black people.
How can I levy this accusation? Throughout all these “celebrations” of Dr. King the fact that he also strove for black empowerment and that always gets omitted. I alluded to all of the king quotes that are tossed out but I have never heard one player use his quote “we’re coming to get our check”?
Many people are completely unaware that Dr. King ever uttered such words and that is no accident. Revealing this part of the Dr. King message adds to his prodigious legacy will also helping to shatter the erroneous portrayal of Dr. King as just the friendly neighbourhood civil rights negro that just wanted unity. Additionally this also takes away the ability by non-FBA groups to using Dr. King as a morality stick to be used when black people begin to ask critical questions or engage in empowerment behaviours. So now when that question “What would Dr.King think or do ?” is asked , tell them he’d say that “we’re coming to get our check.”