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NAACP and Donald Sterling: The Price Tag on Black America’s Head

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America with tags , , , on May 4, 2014 by Gary Johnson


By H. Lewis Smith, Guest Columnist

National Basketball Association (NBA) L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling has a long-documented and publicly-known history of being a bigot; the revelation of the 2009 housing discrimination suit against him served as a monolithic red flag. Even in the midst of that 2009 scandal and in the face of provable, on-going blatant racial disrespect and loathe for Blacks and African Americans, the NAACP still awarded Sterling a humanitarian award that same year. With clear knowledge of Sterling’s actions, the organization again planned to award him a Lifetime Achievement Award this year (2014). Consequently, given knowledge of this past history, any sensible human being (regardless of color) would have to ask why the NAACP would have even considered honoring this person with such a prestigious award in the first place. (Truth be told, seems the only award Sterling qualifies for is some sort of donkey of the decade award).  This idea and mentality of continuing to uphold such a person in spite of his obvious disdain of blacks really causes pause and cause for concern. Ultimately, what do such influential organizations as the NAACP truly represent in terms of standing boldly as the guardian and lead re-constructor of Black America’s racial integrity? What do the NACCP and Black America in general have against speaking loudly for and requiring self-respect from within and without the community? Understand that the intent is not to slander or offend the NAACP. The objective is to make hot the blood that pumps in the veins of the organization to resurrect the strength and leadership it once wielded during the ‘60s. The point is to give vibration and depth to the unified, collective voice that is well-prepared to progress the Black African-American community. The only way this goal can be achieved is if Black Americans vehemently demand respect from others AND self, and hold all accountable for their actions, or non-actions for that matter.

During the years of the Civil Rights Movement and struggles for equality, people died, and in some cases outright sacrificed themselves, in order to secure cultural dignity, respect and usher the advancement of the Black American. The NAACP was at the forefront of the Movement preaching the significance and number one priority of developing moral character, self-respect, and personal empowerment/strength. The NAACP of today seems to be the antithesis of what it was during the ‘60s. Aside from the Donald Sterling fiasco, a complete breakdown in leadership and encouragement of cultural unity in general has long existed in spite of individual achievement and accomplishments since the strong push for Black power. Black America as a group has retrogressed due to a lack of leadership and losing its focus.
In recent decades, the African-American’s consciousness has been submerged in a toiling, never-ending sea of self-deprivation, and ultimately, self-destruction, at their discretion. The minds of its youths were (and still are) exposed to the poison and venomous lyrics of rap music and the Stepin Fetchit antics of black comedians. Their sole ambitions were to sell their souls and the souls of their community for fame and fortune. No one has cried out in protest against these “innovations” in entertainment— not even the NAACP. Rather, they either turned their heads and chose to remain ignorant or separated from the exploitations; bobbed their heads rhythmically to the degrading tunes; snickered boisterously at satire-filled stand-ups; and/or worked backroom deals to figure out how they too could get a piece of the pie.

It seems that the NAACP’s position in most recent years has been one of being very “PC” (politically correct) when the main reason for the organization’s founding was to be a disruptive, progressive organization for the total, well-rounded BENEFIT of Black America. Just as the n-word’s definition cannot be transformed based on passage of time or the way in which the term is said, the NAACP’s definition and/or founding values cannot and should not be changed or compromised in the face of an even more dynamic, undermining systemic. Surely the NAACP made a statement in deciding not to follow through with awarding Sterling the honor, but was it just to appease or pacify the Black community? Would the founding fathers of the NAACP be satisfied with that action or require more so that the world understands the NAACP’s seriousness behind requiring everyone from within and without the community to respect the black race?

NAACP Los Angeles president Leon Jenkins commented in a recent article that people must be forgiving, which is true; however, these same people must also not be blind or foolish. Was the immediate forgiveness just a way to leaving the door open, so that when this situation blows over or is no longer front page and front of mind, that they will allow Sterling to walk right on back in? Is the NAACP afraid that if they cut one racist bigot off that all of their other donors of that same type will pull away their funding?

The NAACP perhaps does have a valid reason in wanting to maintain a relationship with Sterling in that they noted Sterling regularly donates funds to support scholarships; however, as the old and completely relevant adage says “all money isn’t good money.” It is understood that blacks can benefit from the financial contributions; however, the argument is one about having and upholding driving principles, conveying the importance of self-respect, racial dignity, and the development of real self-awareness and moral character of a race of people. Any man can be financially rich, but if he owns no morals, he has not grasped the concept of life and will forever be poor. Moreover, to be treated as cattle (only purchased to use as a revenue-generating stream) and likened to dogs, no amount of money or price can justify acceptance of such classification or relinquishing one’s dignity.

The NAACP’s actions, and defense or justification of so quickly “forgiving” Sterling is reminiscent of Jay-Z recently deciding to continue his collaboration with Barney’s in spite of Black Americans being discriminated against. Again, even though there are potential financial benefits to gain from that relationship, it is time to teach those blatantly disrespecting Black America and using the system to carry out such heinous acts that the community won’t stand for it. Black influential leaders and organizations must be willing to “put it all on the line” for the real purpose or plight of their existence. To sell out morally for a financial benefit teaches a very poor and sad lesson to the very children they claim will gain excellent educations and greater accessibility to opportunities through earning these scholarships. The most unfortunate aspect of the entire matter is that the real lesson and education of growing a healthy moral richness and a genuine high self-worth will not be attained due to the larger ideal being conveyed: selling out for a piece of change is acceptable. Real personal value is intrinsic (priceless, invaluable), founded on truth, and is only developed when standing up to and fighting—with “clean hands”—for what is right just because it is the morally just thing to do.
Donald Sterling and many others make it no secret the contempt and disrespect they have towards the African-American community. Clearly, African Americans are used as pawns and work horses by everyone—including Black and African American people and organizations that sell out the greater community for a buck. Certainly, the Black African American community compounds the matter by insisting on disrespecting themselves with continued use of the n-word and acceptance of being sold out. For instance, in 2007, the NACCP made a superficial attempt to stem the tide of Black Americans’ use of the n-word. Mock funerals to bury the pejorative term sprung up around the country only to come to an abrupt halt. As irony would have it, the old guard within the NACCP was against the mock funerals; instead, it was the younger faction promoting the burial of the n-word as short-lived as it was. Where was the Black community at that time? Why did no one stand up and tell the NAACP that they were wrong for halting the burial of the n-word? And did the NAACP halt the burials due to them again being afraid that much of their funding would be pulled? Is this a way of the guard saying that they still “know their place” and are willing to maintain the “balanced imbalance” to keep receiving their slice of the pie?

Undeniably, if Sterling was not “caught red-handed” with the words of racism pouring with total conviction “from the horse’s mouth” in the taped telephone conversation, the unbelievable presentation of praise to such an undeserving individual would have once again taken place. The NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award is one founded long ago on dignity; appreciation and recognizable value of all mankind; and selfless, genuine efforts made only to help in the uplifting, liberation and independence, and celebration of the Black and African-American community. It should not be treated or used as just another punch card for someone who is only attempting to buy favor with Black America because of what Black America can do for his pocketbook. Further, Black America should be able to recognize the fake and not continue to enable the systemic.

h-lewis-smith H. Lewis Smith is the founder and president of UVCC, the United Voices for a Common Cause, Inc., author of Bury that Sucka: A Scandalous Love Affair with the N-Word, and the recently released book Undressing the N-word: Revealing the Naked Truth, Lies, Deceit and Mind Games.


Posted in Sports News with tags , , , , on February 11, 2010 by Gary Johnson

By Harold Bell

He grew up in the cotton fields of Mississippi where his mother earned two-dollars a day picking cotton.  He would leave those cotton fields for the city of Detroit and leave behind the mental and physical chains of slavery.

Spencer Haywood left those cotton fields for the playgrounds and high school basketball courts in Motown.  Instead of picking cotton he made a career out of picking rebounds off the backboards and scoring baskets at record rates.

His high school basketball performances earned him a scholarship to Trinidad College where he averaged 28 points and 22 rebounds a game for one season. He returned home to play at the University of Detroit and averaged an eye popping 32 points and 22 rebounds.

Trinidad and the University of Detroit were just warm up stops on his basketball journey.  He would be only 18 years old in 1968 when he led the United States Olympic team to the gold medal in Mexico City.  This was the same year sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos made their historical statement against racial segregation in America.  During the presentations of medals they silently raised their black fisted signature gloves in protest.  The protest was heard around the world.

George Foreman followed their act of defiance by waving the American flag in the ring after winning a Gold Medal in boxing.  Those were three unforgettable moments and one moment Spencer would later say “I would rather forget.  Tommie and John were putting their futures in jeopardy and were banished from the Olympic Village for their defiant act.  If you were black and you were not going to support them, it was best you kept it to yourself.”

Instead of returning to the University of Detroit Spencer joined the newly organized American Basketball Association (ABA). In Denver he immediately became the face of the new league when he averaged 30 points and 19 rebounds a game.  He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year.

Despite his basketball glory and bright lights and big cities, Spencer never forgot the cotton fields in his native Mississippi.  He remembered the long hours his mother labored in those fields picking cotton for pennies on a dollar.  His choice to leave college was easy, turning pro he would be able to make those cotton fields just a bad memory.

In 1970 with the support and encouragement of his mentor and high school coach Will Robinson, he decided to challenge the NBA’s volunteer slavery rule, “No college no play.”

The challenge would be a very lonely journey and sometimes it was hard to tell whether his new NBA Seattle teammates were playing with him or against him.  The one man he knew was in his corner was team owner Sam Schulman.  Schulman was the NBA’s Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavs) long before Cuban.

He marched to his own drummer; while Spencer was suing the NBA for trying to bar him, Schulman was suing the league for violating anti-trust laws.  If those were not enough headaches for Spencer, the University of Detroit and the ABA was suing him for leaving school early and breach of contract respectively.

Those were difficult times for a young man who had not yet celebrated his 21st birthday.  There were times when he was served with injunctions just before the tip-off of a game and banished from the arena.  He slept in cars and in the team bus waiting for the game to end.  The injunctions became a guessing game.  It was hard to tell where and when the next injunction would be served.

Spencer played in only 33 games in the 1970-71 NBA season, starting, stopping and starting again with each temporary injunction.

The Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, ruled in his favor and he later became “Public Enemy No. 1” in the NBA.

He had to grow up early and he became a “Man Child” before his time.  There will be 24 players playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Dallas, Texas in 2010, 21 of the All-Stars came into the NBA and became instant millionaires thanks to Spencer’s kicking down the door to free agency.

He blazed the path for the likes of Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dywane Wade and Kwame Brown.  There are too many of them who don’t have a clue to who Spencer is as he relates to them and the NBA.

They don’t know, thanks to the NBA and brothers in so-called major media who refuse to take a stand and have fallen for just anything as it relates to Black History.  It looks like most of them (media) have been brainwashed by the NBA and have followed their lead in pretending Spencer Haywood is just a figment of their imagination.  For proof, do a Google search for “NBA History: African-American Influence and Breaking Down Barriers.” Spencer Haywood’s name is nowhere to be found.  The sad part of this puzzle is that no one in the media has asked the question why?

Spencer’s groundbreaking accomplishment was more important than Earl Lloyd becoming the first black to play in an NBA game or Red Auerbach playing five black players for the first time.  Free agency impacted every NBA player black and white.

Earl Lloyd was denied his rightful place in NBA History for 50 years until I asked NBA legendary coach the late Red Auerbach to join me in a campaign to get him inducted into the hall of fame.  Earl was finally inducted in 2002.  NFL Green Bay Packer legendary safety Willie Wood was also ignored for decades.  He stood by and watched as his teammates were voted into the hall of fame one by one.  He was left on the sidelines and reduced to a cheerleader.  In 1985 I started an “Induct Willie Wood” campaign on my sports talk show ‘Inside Sports,’ and he was inducted in 1988.

Boston Celtic coach and benefactor, Doc Rivers was recently quoted as saying, For the most part, Spencer has just been taken for granted by many of us.  But what he did was huge for everyone.  We should all be thanking him.”

After the court ruled in Spencer’s favor he continued to play heads and shoulders above the rim.  In 1972 and 1973, he was on the All-NBA first team and became a chartered member of the All-Star game.  During that era he was one of the five best players in the league.

I met Spencer Haywood shortly after his arrival in the “Big Apple” New York City.  I was introduced to Spencer by CBS and NBA color analyst Sonny Hill.  Spencer would later become a regular on my sports talk show ‘Inside Sports.’ Sonny Hill played an important role in my success as a talk radio personality.

The trade to the New York Knicks took Spencer over the top when it came to the fast life and drugs.  He took the Big Apple by storm and made all the rich and famous parties driving a Rolls Royce and with his wife, Iman, one of the world’s top fashion models on his arm.  Frank Sinatra once said in a song, “New York, New York if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.” Spencer Haywood had made it!

When Spencer was at the top of his game as a NBA “Power Forward” he was one of the best.  There were several other players who I thought was his equal, Gus Johnson of the Washington Bullets and George McGinnis of the Philadelphia 76ers.  They also put the POWER into the forward position.  They had the finesse of ballet dancers with a linebacker’s mentally.  When they met head to head it was pro basketball at its best.  I would take anyone of these guys and match them with any similar Power Forwards in the NBA’s 50 Greatest (Barkley, DeBusschere, Lucas).  I would bet Spencer, George and Gus would win.

Spencer’s love affair with the Knicks was over before he could say “Where is the next party?” He suffered a knee injury and that didn’t help his career.  Spencer had more time on his hands than NBA games and depression set in and the drugs were breakfast, lunch and dinner.  In 1979 the Knicks shot an air ball to the Los Angeles Lakers and traded him, it was the beginning of his end.

Evidently, the Knicks thought, with the Lakers Spencer would feel more at home.  The Lakers were known as Drug Central of the NBA.  It was said the best high in the NBA was found in the Los Angeles Lakers locker room.  He hit rock bottom at the end of the 1979-80 season when the team suspended him in the midst of the NBA Finals because of his drug use.  Spencer went to sleep on the court while stretching.

The Lakers met the Philadelphia 76ers in game six of the NBA Championship finals, and 6’9 rookie Magic Johnson started at Center in the place of the injured Kareem Abdul Jabbar. The Lakers defeated the 76ers and Magic scored 42 points, handed out 12 assist and pulled down 15 rebounds.  Spencer never got to see the game because he was high on drugs.  The Lakers released him.  His next stop was Italy, France for a year and he then returned to the NBA to play with the Washington Bullets from 1981 to 1983.

When his contract was up in 1983 I could tell that Spencer had a lot on his mind and he still had a mission to fulfill.  One of the things we talked about was him getting his ring from the Lakers for the 1980 championship season.  He was voted a share of the money but never got his ring.  He was also concerned about his daughter Zulekha now that he and his wife Iman were having their problems.  He seemed to be more concerned about reclaiming his NBA name.

Spencer had a passion for children and had no patience for politicians who used children only as a sound bite.  He was proud of being sober from alcohol and drugs and the constant battle it took to stay that way.  I took him for his word because he never did drugs or alcohol in my presence.  Spencer knew all the athletes and sporting personalities who had drug problems in DC.  The celebrity drug community in every city is a small and close knit group.  The names he gave me I already had because of my street network.  Some these same personalities are still sitting on NBA benches and hiding behind television microphones.

The great Power Forward I once enjoyed watching was now just a shadow of himself, his greatness seldom found its way on to the basketball court at Capitol Centre.  Despite his diminishing skills he was still a great human being and a joy to be around.  He always kept it real.

He cared little about material things.  I remember when he was leaving town for over a week on a road trip with the team.  He wanted to leave his Rolls Royce with me to have it serviced while he was gone.  Hattie my wife almost had a fit and refused to allow me to keep his car.  I called Spencer and told him the bad news about her being worried about me having an accident.  He then asked me to put her on the telephone.  I gave Hattie the telephone and two minutes later she was saying “Okay. I don’t know what he said, but Spencer had away with words.  She later told me he said “Hattie I have insurance and Harold has a license, what’s the problem?”

I was disappointed when I read the story by Tim Povtak senior NBA writer for the blog FANHOUSE how the NBA had pimp him and brought him to his knees while he tried to re-claim his name.

The story said that Spencer had tried to lobby the league for several years to name the NBA entry rule after him, like the Supreme Court that still bears his name, but that effort wilted.

I appreciate the writer Povtak being diplomatic and using the word “Lobby” instead of begging, because that is exactly what it sounded like to me.

According to Povtak, the rule has been altered a few times through the collective bargaining agreement with the union, yet the premise has remained the same.  Thanks to NBA Union Representative Billy Hunter if it ain’t about him you can count yourself out. The Billy Hunter that I know is not going to stand up for anyone but himself.  He sold Spencer out to the NBA.

Povtak goes on to say “It took the league years to gradually warm to Haywood after what he had done.  He has been sober now for 24 years.  He has spent the last 15 years as a league ambassador, traveling the world to promote the NBA.  He served as a board member for the NBA Retired Players Association.  He speaks often to young players about the pitfalls that once swallowed him.” It sounds like the NBA made him do community service to re-claim his name and they are now throwing him a bone during NBA All-Star weekend.

I am going to address the first sentence in the paragraph above, “It took the league years to warm up to Haywood after what he had done!”  What had he done?  I am reading between the lines that what Spencer had done was drugs and he fought the system that wanted to keep him from earning a living playing professional basketball.  Were the crimes he committed, crimes enforced across the board?

If the NBA is punishing Spencer for doing drugs and if drugs are the issue then the NBA Hall of Fame should be half empty.

I would hope the NBA is not punishing him for standing up for his civil rights against their bias rule on free agency.  If that is the case according to the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court they were the problem and not Spencer Haywood.

But there is a problem that is Spencer’s and his alone.  When I read he said “I have two daughters who play basketball, but even they don’t know who I am in regard to what I did once, there were times when I was beaten down so badly, I felt almost ashamed of what I did. That was not the Spencer Haywood the proud black man that inspired me to keep telling the truth, keep my head up and stay strong!

First, Spencer, have you heard of Home Schooling? Who can teach your children about your history better than you?  Your children are your legacy and you and only you must make sure they are armed with the real story as it relates to you.

Our history is being stolen, ignored and others have used it for their own financial gain for over 400 years, for example; “Inside Sports” was a title my wife Hattie thought of in 1973 for my new radio sports talk show.  John Walsh a writer for the Style section of the Washington Post decided in 1978 to take our title to New York City and discover Inside Sports Magazine.  He followed the same pattern of Christopher Columbus when he discovered America with native Indians already occupying the land.

This was my fault I should have trademarked the name as I was advised from the very beginning.  I made it easy for him.  Guess who owns the trade mark to Inside Sports, how about News Week Magazine and the Washington Post newspaper?  When I changed my show title to The Original Inside Sports, Walsh changed the magazine’s title to The Original Inside Sports Magazine! Walsh left a paper trail that Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder could follow (  It is too bad it was not murder he committed in America what he did is called “White Collar Crime,” people like Walsh don’t have original ideas of their own so they take from others.

Spencer, you had a front row seat as the NBA and Billy Hunter proved they could care less about your pioneering efforts.  There will be black brothers in media who will congratulate you on your pioneering efforts at NBA All-Star weekend.  The faces will look familiar so ask them “where have you been for the past 24 years?” See if Billy Hunter can look you in your eyes and say “Spencer I tried.” Keep it real!

Our history will be overlooked and made out to be a joke if we don’t take charge, for example; Mike & Mike celebrated Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday recently on their morning show heard and seen on ESPN nationally.  Mike Greenberg in a discussion about Rev. King called him out of his name when he referred to him as “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Coon King, Jr.” The silence from blacks heard, seen and read at media outlets like PTI, FANHOUSE, AROUND THE HORN, WASHINGTON POST and USA TODAY was deafening.  Not a protested word was heard or read!

Boxing promoter Don King says “Racism is the biggest business in the world.” (

Spencer, if we don’t keep our own history it won’t be kept.  Most will celebrate Black History Month the same way NBC television tried to do in New York City.  The cafeteria’s black chef made up a menu of fried chicken, collar greens, potato salad, chitlings, yams and cornbread and a drink of choice (no desert, watermelon was out of season).  The menu title “Black History Month Menu All You Can Eat.”

What happen to food for thought with names on the menu like, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, William DuBoise, Paul Roberson and the list goes on and on?

In 1993, Jill Nelson penned a book titled “Volunteer Slavery” as it related to black writers and employees of the Washington Post newspaper.  According, to her book when she joined the Washington Post in 1986 she became a Volunteer Slave.  Jill and Spencer have something in common, twenty-four years later little or nothing has changed.

In all honesty and fairness we cannot continue to lay all the blame of racism at the doorstep of the NBA and the Washington Post.  We (Blacks) must take some responsible for not being able to see the forest for the trees!

Check and see who owns and calls the shots at BET, Essence Magazine, Radio One and TV One.  Ebony Magazine recently sold their archives to the Internet giant Google.  This means in the future if we want information about our history we are going to have to buy it from Warner Brothers, Comcast and Google.

In 2010, forty-two years after the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, I have to ask myself why is it we have not developed our own giants in media?  Where are our media outlets that can compare with or challenge, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN, USA Today, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, etc?

Where are the voices in black media who we can compare with or challenge Larry King, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Russ Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Diane Sawyer, Barbra Waters and Katie Couric?

The more things change the more they remain the same.  Mississippi and two-dollars a day are not as far away as we think!

If you see my friend Spencer give him this message from Smokey Robinson

To learn more about Spencer Haywood, click here to buy his book, “Spencer Haywood’s The Rise, The Fall, The Recovery.”

Gilbert Arenas: One Bad Move After Another

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Gary A. Johnson, Sports News with tags , , , on January 7, 2010 by Gary Johnson

Photo credit:  Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

January 7, 2010

Gilbert Arenas has made one bad move after another for two consecutive weeks.  His behavior begs the question:  How can one man be so misguided?  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  For two weeks Gilbert Arenas has been laughing, joking “tweeting” and basically making a mockery of his version of “Bring Your Guns To Work Day.” Gilbert is losing approximately $147,000 per game with no end in sight with an indefinite suspension.  Gilbert is NOT laughing now.  Neither are his teammates.  According to ESPN, one source with knowledge of the Washington Wizards’ thinking said that Arenas’ teammates who participated in the pregame gun simulation against Philadelphia have been told they will be fined.  Other media reports say those fines could range between $20,000 to $25,000 dollars per teammate.

This Gilbert Arenas gun story is not a local story.  How big is it?  All of the late night talk show hosts have talked about Arenas in their monologues.  Even Al Sharpton is in on the act.  Sharpton has already spoken with NBA Commissioner David Stern.   Rev. Al told the NY Daily News, “The NBA needs to stand up and send a strong message by dealing with this situation.”  Sharpton says his concern is a “culture of violence being perpetuated in professional sports.”

Before yesterday’s photo of Gilbert Arenas shown “mock shooting” his teammates before the Philadelphia game on January 5, 2009, Gilbert was probably going to get a 7-10 day suspension for bringing guns into the Verizon Center. (I’m not talking about the allegations of Gilbert drawing a gun on a teammate over a reported unpaid gambling debt.  Arenas denied those allegations and asked some members of the media to issue a “sorry” to him in their publication when this incident is over).

Try and follow me folks.  According to reports and statements from Gilbert himself:

  • Arenas brought four firearms to the Wizards’ locker room at Verizon Center at some point last month.
  • He has admitted this from the beginning, although he insists they were unloaded.
  • Arenas said he brought the guns to work to get them out of his house and away from his three kids.
  • He put them in his locker with the intent of turning them over to Wizards security personnel. Then he decided to use them to play a practical joke on a teammate.
  • Then, after a number of investigations were launched, Arenas, through an attorney, admitted that he was wrong and said he was very sorry.

The Washington Post reported that according to two first-hand accounts, Gilbert Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton got into a dispute over unpaid gambling debts during a plane ride, and threats were exchanged.  Two days later, Arenas set four unloaded guns in Crittenton’s locker cubicle with a note reading “Pick One.” Crittenton pulled his own piece, loaded it and chambered a round.

Let’s soak this in for a moment.  Can you imagine this sequence of events at your job?

Shortly after the release of “the photo,” Gilbert Arenas was suspended indefinitely.  In a statement Wednesday announcing Arenas’ suspension, NBA Commissioner David Stern said that while he was inclined to let the criminal investigation into the incident go forward before taking action, it was clear to him that Arenas’ behavior made him not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game.

Gilbert Arenas has done a lot of good things for this community, but unfortunately, most if not all of those good deeds will be wiped out and forgotten because of his lack of emotional maturity and his blatant disregard for the rule of law.

You see, “the photo” of Gil shooting his teammates with his fingers posing as guns rubbed everyone the wrong way.  People of all races, cultures, gender and economic stations in life think Gilbert Arenas was wrong.

I have talked to people at just about every rung of the economic ladder and no one can defend his actions.  Even guys in the hood who were staunch defenders of Michael Vick could not stand by Arenas on this issue.

This issue is bigger than Arenas, bigger than the Washington Wizards and bigger than the NBA.  “The photo” has severe economic implications for the NBA and that is what led to Gilbert’s “indefinite” suspension.  The image of Gilbert and his teammates making fun of the gun situation has been distributed worldwide.  NBA Commissioner David Stern has a fiduciary responsibility to protect his league.  Gilbert’s conduct has cast a negative light on the NBA and everyone associated with the league.  The league’s revenue stream is at risk.  Corporate sponsors don’t want to be associated with a league where employees people are so brazen that they can make a mockery of gun laws, rules and regulations.

Gilbert Arenas, like many professional athletes is not a thug.  His behavior is stupid and immature and perhaps, “thug like,” but he is not a thug.  Gilbert and guys like him have no clue about what it takes to be a team leader on and off the court.  When you are the star player and have a contract worth over $100 million dollars, this gun incident is not what the team or league meant when they said, “We want you to be the face of the franchise.”

Arenas “tweeted” an apology for the offensive photo, and later released what appears to be a “lawyered up” apology that read as follows:

“I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action. I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans. I am very sorry for doing that.

While I never intended any harm or disrespect to the NBA or anyone else, my gun possession at the Verizon Center and my attempts at humor showed terrible judgment. I take full responsibility for my conduct.

Earlier today, I called Commissioner Stern to apologize, and I hope we will be able to talk soon. I look forward to the day I can return to basketball. In the meantime, I will focus on dealing responsibly with this serious situation and I will continue to cooperate fully with the investigations by law enforcement and NBA authorities.”

Gilbert’s string of Twitter messages, media interviews and rants has served as a “Plaxico Burris type” of self-inflicted wound.  For the record, I am not comparing what Gilbert did to the Burris situation.  Burris’ behavior was far worse as he brought a loaded and concealed weapon into a crowded nightclub and shot himself in the leg.

The now famous photo of Arenas “mock shooting” his teammates coupled with his string of public statements and Twitter “tweets,” clearly reflect that Gilbert Arenas did not “get it.”  Either he did not understand the seriousness of the situation or he believed that the rules of law don’t apply to him.

If I were Gilbert’s employer (the Washington Wizards), my lawyers would be working around the clock to get out of that $111 million dollar contract with this screwball who has a long history of self-indulgent behavior that suggests that he has made a conscious choice NOT to conform to the reasonable expectations of the league, the team and the fans who purchase the tickets that help pay his salary.  Gilbert’s actions have implications that go far beyond the NBA.  Professional sports will be affected by his behavior for years to come.

Gary Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book“25 Things That Really Matter In Life.”

The Two Faces Of Abe

Posted in Sports News with tags , , , on November 28, 2009 by Gary Johnson

By Harold Bell

In Washington, DC on Tuesday November 24, 2009, the sports world lost a sports superstar who never hit a game winning basket at the buzzer, kicked a winning field goal as time expired or hit a walk off homerun to win the World Series.  His name was Abe Pollin and his uniform number was No. 1.  He was the owner of the NBA Washington Wizards.

I became familiar with the name Abe Pollin when he brought a struggling Baltimore Bullets franchise in 1964.  One of the NBA’s superstars during that era was a young athlete out of Spingarn High School in Washington, DC.  His name was Elgin Baylor, he was known to Washingtonians as “Rabbit.”  He was the only excuse we needed to travel to Baltimore to watch a losing Bullets team.

The one-on-one battle between Elgin and Gus Johnson of the Bullets made the ride from DC up the Baltimore/Washington Parkway worthwhile.

My co-worker at the United Planning Organization and later legendary radio personality Petey Green and I could not wait for the next home game.  The games were classics, especially after the arrival of Earl Monroe.

Abe Pollin and Wes Unseld

When Mr. Pollin signed “The Pearl” in 1967 and Wes Unseld in 1968 to play along side Gus Johnson, the Bullets became The Original Show Time of the NBA.  The Lakers’ show time with Magic, Kareem and Worthy were “Second Banana” to these guys.

Dave Bing (Detroit Pistons) and Earl arrived on the scene at the same time.  I was in NBA Basketball heaven.  They completed my NBA connection.

The “Triangle” of Elgin, Earl and Dave made destination Baltimore an Easy Rider.  Elgin and Dave were Spingarn alumnus and we shared a special kinship (we were coached by the same coaches).  Earl and I were alumnus of Winston-Salem State College in North Carolina.  It was there I met him on one his visits to the campus in 1963.  We both played for the late legendary basketball Hall of Fame coach Clarence ‘Bighouse’ Gaines.

If there was any doubt that Mr. Pollin created The Original NBA Show Time all one has to see is a video of Wes Unseld retrieving a rebound and tossing one of his patent outlet passes to Earl and then join Gus on a fast break to the basket.  The fans would be standing on their feet holding their breath expecting the unexpected.  Would it be a rim shattering dunk by Gus or a no-look pass from The Pearl?  They were a sight to behold.

When Mr. Pollin moved the team to Landover, Maryland in 1974 I was just entering the world of media as a sports talk show host with “The Original Inside Sports.”

In many of the stories written in newspapers and the repeated discussions of Mr. Pollin’s legacy on talk shows, the one word that seems to dominate the stories and those discussions—is loyalty.

When I think of loyalty and Mr. Pollin’s, I think of Landover, Maryland in 1974.  The move started a divorce that was heard around the NBA, Pollin vs. Monroe.  There would be no out of court or on the court settlement.  Earl would take his ball to New York and Mr. Pollin would take his team to Landover.

Mr. Pollin’s boyhood and close friend Hymie Perlo once said to me “That was the worst basketball decision Abe ever made.”

Earl Monroe revolutionized how the guard position was played in the NBA.  He brought showmanship and moves to the basket never before seen in pro basketball.  When we talk about “Great Athletes” I define their greatness by how they changed the rules and the way the game is played.  Earl changed the rules and the game.

Their split was about money, Earl’s contract was up and he was looking for a long term deal and a raise.  Abe Pollin didn’t think Earl was worth the time or the money he was asking for and they went their separate ways.

Earl left for the New York Knickerbockers and got the money he thought he deserved and a NBA Championship.  In discussions with Earl about his Bullet departure, loyalty was not one his favorite words.  He would often say, “Going to New York was the best decision I have ever made.”

The divorced left a bitter taste in Earl’s mouth for many years.  He is still the most popular player in the history of the franchise.

Mr. Pollin realized he had made a mistake and that was one of the reasons he summoned him back to Verizon Center last season.  It was there Earl and Mr. Pollin renewed their vows kissed and made up.  The Wizards retired Earl’s number during a welcome back home ceremony.

When Mr. Pollin moved the Bullets to Landover in 1974 there was a double standard established at the media press table.  There were some who ignored it and others who only dared to whisper about it.

When I took my seat at the press table the seating arrangement made me wonder why was there Brown vs Board of Education, marches on Washington and Selma Alabama, assassinations of Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers, three little girls blown up in their church.  Why black and white civil rights workers were lynched fighting for the civil rights of us all?

I refuse to allow myself to feel like a second class citizen all over again. 

I thought of putting my own life on the line during the 1968 riots.  Here we are in 1974 and white media was seated to the left of midcourt and black media was seated to the right of midcourt.  Something was wrong with this picture!

During the 1974 NBA season I established the first monthly Media Roundtable at WOOK radio where my sports talk show Inside Sports was aired.  The participants included Dave Dupree, Bill McCaffrey, Ed Frankovich, George Solomon, Ed Brown, Sonny Hill, Elmer Smith, Bill Rhoden and a host of other contributors.

It was on one of my shows where the idea was hatched that Ed Frankovich and I would change seats at the next Bullets home game.

The next home game was against the Golden State Warriors.  I remember Warrior Coach Al Attles and I meeting under the basket just before the game started.  I told him what was about to transpire and he said, “Be careful” and he went back to his seat on the bench.

The sit-in took place quietly and without fanfare.  A new seating chart was posted a week later and a new era in media relations had emerged at the Capitol Centre.

Mr. Pollin’s loyalty was tested again in 1975.  Boston Celtic great K. C. Jones was fired after he coached and led the Washington Bullets into the NBA finals against The Golden State Warriors.  The Warriors were coached by Al Attles, making this the first time in NBA history two black coaches had met in a Championship game.  The Warriors swept the Bullets in four straight games and K C Jones was later fired.  All the blamed should not be laid at the door of Mr. Pollin.  Several of K. C.’s closest backstabbing friends helped expedite his exit.

I remember former player Carlos Terry who was destined to be an impact player for the Wizards before a knee injury ended his career.  Carlos was a Winston-Salem State University grad and played for Bighouse Gaines.  Coach Gaines asked me to keep an eye on the big fellow and help him navigate the deep water in DC.

Carlos and I became good friends and he joined the team of Kids In Trouble, Inc to work with at-risk children.  He was a great young man with a big heart.  His teammate Rick Mahorn was a bad influence.  Mahorn was a country boy who got blinded by the bright lights and big city and became a NBA bully and a “City Slicker.”

DC is a small town and my community is even smaller.  It is hard to keep a secret if more then two people know the secret.

Carlos picked up a couple of bad habits hanging out with Mahorn, I diplomatically pulled him aside one night after a game and told him to be careful of his after hour hangouts.  He said “thanks, no problem.”

After his knee injury and cutting his ties with the Bullets, Carlos became depress and drifted off.  I would wake up one morning to hear the news via radio that he had been killed in an automobile accident on the beltway.  Reports were that he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Coach Gaines called me several days later saying “Carlos’ family don’t have the money to bury him.” I asked Coach to let me check around for some resources.  My first call was to the Wizards’ GM Bob Ferry and explained the family’s dilemma; he said “Harold let me get back to you.” I am still waiting for him to get back to me.

Thanks to Coach Gaines and Carlos’ college family and friends, the funeral proceeded.  I traveled to his hometown, in Lexington, North Carolina to speak on behalf of Kids In Trouble, Inc., at his home-going.  I don’t recall seeing anyone from the Bullet’s organization in attendance—loyalty.

Mr. Pollin hired native Washingtonian Eddie Jordan to coach the Wizards on a handshake.  Eddie rescued the franchise and took them back to what had become Never-Never Land, the NBA playoffs.  The team excelled for 4 straight seasons.  His reward, he was fired last season–loyalty.

Ironically, Eddie Jordan is now the coach of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and they were in town to play the Wizard’s on the eve of Mr. Pollin’s death.  Eddie always a class-act said, “I am appreciative of the opportunity Mr. Pollin gave me to coach in my hometown, it has been the highlight of my basketball career.”

One year ago Tuesday on the eve of his death Mr. Pollin raised eyebrows when he sent MJ the man known as Michael Jordan packing back to North Carolina.  He fired MJ from his duties as Vice-President of basketball operations.  MJ helped turn a financially down and out franchise into a money making Cash-Cow.

He returned to his “Comfort Zone” the basketball courts of the NBA to sell out crowds making ticket scalpers some of the most sought after guys in Chinatown.  On game nights the restaurants were suddenly full before and after Wizard’s games.  Mr. Pollin an astute businessman and suddenly a magician pulled a rabbit out of the hat.  The rabbit was Michael Jordan.  He later did a Bugs Bunny and said to MJ and his fans “That’s all folks.”

It is here that I think Mr. Pollin gets a bum rap as it relates to the dismissal of Michael Jordan.  I blame MJ and his agent David Falk for allowing Michael to make a business decision with a businessman without having anything in writing!  This was business and it had nothing to do with friendship.

Mr. Pollin never forgot the put down by Michael at an owner’s meeting before a threaten strike by the NBA players.  Mr. Pollin questioned the selfish and greedy motives of the players, Michael’s response, “Mr. Pollin if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.”

I have read the stories and heard the so-called experts talk and discus the legacy of Mr. Abe Pollin.  The only one that made any sense was Michael Wilbon.  His column in the Washington Post “A man who reached out to others” was very compelling.

Michael’s column taught me two lessons in one.  His column gave me an inside look of a very complicated man who reached back and gave unselfishly to others.  Whether, he gave back because of family pain or a guilty conscience, only he knows.  The second lesson was when Michael challenged this giant of a businessman on two business decisions that he thought the columnist knew nothing about.  Mr. Pollin thought the columnist should concentrate on keeping scores of games and batting averages of athletes—-because business was out of his league.

Mr. Pollin, the multi-millionaire and giant businessman took out an ad in the local newspapers including the columnist’s paper saying in so many words “Mind your damn business.”

Several years later the columnist’s advice would prove him to be right, the story could have ended right there, but Mr. Pollin swallowed his pride and invited the columnist to the groundbreaking ceremony for the new MCI Center.  This was the same downtown location that the columnist had advised Mr. Pollin, “If the Bullets are going to remain viable they need to move to downtown DC.”

This gesture along with the move to bring Earl Monroe back home told me lot about Mr. Pollin.  He was man enough to say “I was wrong.” This is a lesson that we all can learn from, never be too tall to say ‘I made a mistake.’

Mr. Pollin made his share of mistakes that included, Earl Monroe, Red Auerbach, Arnold Heft and others that we will never know.  But he was human and we all make mistakes.

Winning or losing I must admit Mr. Pollin and I were like ships passing in the night.  We would sometimes nod our heads at each other and sometimes we would look right through each other.

I was holding Mr. Pollin responsible for the inconsiderate acts of a few when he had a full plate.

In the final analyst, Mr. Pollin’s cup was half full and half empty.  We all should live to be so lucky.

I was especially proud to see three young men in attendance at Tuesday night’s game who have been touched by Kids In Trouble, Inc. and Inside Sports.  The three are now making their mark and making a difference as sports journalist on the national scene, Michael Wilbon, David Aldridge and Kevin Blackistone.

I discovered that I can still learn from them.  Through them I learned a lesson taught in a great man’s death that he cared long before Harold Bell and the NBA.

Mr. Abe Pollin——1923-2009 when two faces in Washington, DC, was better then one.

Harold Bell is the Godfather of Sports Talk radio and television. Throughout the mid-sixties, seventies and eighties, Harold embarked upon a relatively new medium–sports talk radio with classic interviews with athletes and sports celebrities.  The show and format became wildly popular and has been copied over the years by others in the mainstream media.

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