Our preoccupation with sports comes from all the good they can give to us. It allows us to marvel at the feats the human body can achieve with training, practice and strategy. Sports encourages us to pin our hopes on individuals or corporate entities, known as teams, and experience the joy of mob mentality while cheering them on to victory. That allows us escape from our work and school in daily life and gives us a chance to focus on something other than the bills on the desk or the work waiting to be done. However, when controversy enters the realm of sports it has the ability to dampen all of those positive aspects and make us want to spend our time escaping through something else. Nowhere has that become more evident than in the NBA’s controversy with hip-hop music.
What’s music got to do with it?
The first question one must ask in this controversy is why is a professional sport having a problem with music at all? Other than playing songs before and during games, what does music have to do with basketball? Actually, music as a lot to do with it. Rappers are not only basketball fans but have moved into the realm of corporate sponsors and team owners. Their videos, merchandise and relationships with high-profile players have brought the world above the rim onto the major stage. Critics charge the NBA got into this controversy by exploiting hip-hop to draw crowds into the arena to be a part of this environment. Other say that because hip-hop has its roots in the African-American community which currently dominates professional basketball, it was a natural link. Either way, the baggage that comes with hip-hop music: its roots from being a street form of expression and its current concerns about lyrics involving misogyny, violence and social unrest create an unlikely connection to an American iconic sport.
Media releases from the NBA All-Star game in Las Vegas were filled with as many police reports as on-court statistics. Reports of violence, arrests, shooting, and unlawful behavior made headlines while reports from the game of three point shots, rebounds and passes, remained in the background. Hip Hop music and its gangland connection seem to have taken the brunt of the blame for this turn in the NBA’s image. Many columnists and critics point out that other sports have problems with violence and violent actions on behalf of their players. Embracing this possible connection, many well-known street gangs have taken to wearing NBA jerseys of their favorite players and bringing basketball into their world as well. While this may seem to be innocent fan’s obsession with their team, the connection between street gangs and NBA basketball is not mutually beneficial.
Turn from the dark side
Anyone of any race can listen to and enjoy hip-hop music. The challenge for the NBA is to separate music from the genre that is violent, dark and unseemly from being a part of their sport and merchandising. They have taken such steps as creating a new dress code and defining behavior both on and off the court for players when representing the NBA. They are hoping to stem the tide of gang-related activity, both on and off the court.
We must always be careful when looking at any trend in music to make sure that our understandings of it are based on statistics and experience and not racial stereotypes and oppressive majority behavior. However, as the scene in basketball shifts from athletic to antisocial, recognition of this controversy and resolving it is imperative for the NBA.