The first reaction was that this had to be some kind of sick joke.
What idiot sends out a press release on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day announcing the establishment of an all-white basketball league?
Sadly, it was not a joke. Racism never is.
Don "Moose" Lewis claims his concept of a whites-only basketball league has nothing to do with racism. He's wrong, of course. And his proposal to re-establish a small piece of segregation on the holiday we celebrate the dream and effort of MLK is reprehensible.
Lewis' press release is filled with the vile and hateful stereotypes that condemn an entire race.
"It has come to the attention of the principals of the (All-American Basketball Alliance) that white basketball players are essentially 'shut out' of conventional professional basketball due to the proliferation of non-organized play on the court," he said. "With players on other professional teams carrying guns, attacking fans in the stands, and going through the motions of playing the game, fundamentally sound white players are a vanishing species."
It sickens me to hear this kind of prejudicial garbage given even the smallest iota of credence.
I'm not naive enough to believe that racism isn't alive and well in these United States -- I've read the online comments that pass for civic discourse. But 62 years after the Dixiecrats dissolved, 49 years after the last Caucasian-only clause was stricken from American sports, 42 years after King was assassinated and just more than a year after we elected our first black president, I hoped this kind of ignorance might be on the wane.
Just the fact that someone would consider this kind of venture shows just how far away we are at truly reconciling our society.
"Fans have spoken to the AABA asking to restore on court sanity to the game of basketball," the press release claims. "Their pleas are our mission. Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league."
But Lewis -- a boxing and wrestling promoter by trade who can channel Al Campanis and Jimmy The Greek as well as anyone -- goes on one of those racist rants that can make you weep.
"It's because of the fact that natural athleticism of people of color is different," Lewis said. "They can make up for their shortfall in fundamentals with their natural athleticism. And coaches look for the quickest way to win, so they go for natural athleticism instead of the fundamentals from a white player. Is it a coaching problem? To a certain degree, but a lot of it is the culture.
"I know there's bad apples of every color, but like my wife says, let the numbers speak for themselves. Turn on the local TV news and who do you see on there? Facts are facts. Now, imagine the safety and quality of play at games where there's none of that. Anyone can be a star."
In his conversation with The Augusta Chronicle , Lewis mentioned several white NBA stars as shining examples of what his league would be all about.
"You do have some guys in the NBA, guys like Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash," Lewis said. "Dirk is the last great white hope."
Of course, since Nash and Nowitzki are Canadian and German, they wouldn't be eligible for Lewis' league.
Lewis even cites North Carolina -- you know, the school that helped integrate the Atlantic Coast Conference with Charlie Scott and gave us Michael Jordan -- as his muse.
"At Carolina, the bottom line is they're fundamentally sound," he said. "The guys who buy into the program go 100 percent, and those are the white guys. They have the Blue Team, and every time they come into the game, everybody cheers them on and get behind them. They're the most popular."
The Blue Team, for those as ignorant as Lewis, was a substitution strategy first employed by Dean Smith who would install an entire reserve unit to briefly spell his starters. They are not exclusively white.
"Look at Larry Bird," Lewis continued. "He was a very good player. But if he was a black player, he wouldn't be considered in the same league as Michael Jordan. But he was white and entertaining. That's why people liked him."
This Moose Lewis character is more than a little challenged when it comes to his judgment. An Internet search of his other offerings as chief of this Global Basketball Alliance illustrates that pretty clearly.
In January of 2008, Lewis issued a news release saying that his director of team development, a military veteran, had been in an accident a week earlier and fallen into a coma. "Due to these tragic circumstances, the GBA has no alternative but to seek a replacement." Now that's class.
The only bit of sense Lewis displays is an awareness that this segregationist endeavor wouldn't fly in an arena named after James Brown or any other public facility.
For gyms in which to play, he hopes to find kindred spirits at private white-flight academies that are prevalent across the southern regions he hopes to infiltrate.
Let's make sure that Augusta and its surrounding communities do not become a haven for this kind of prejudice.
If we do, the sick joke is on us.
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.