Forget about the White House party crashers and Balloon Boy. There’s a new contender for the title of stupidest stunt aimed at getting a reality TV show.
Don “Moose” Lewis, a Georgia boxing promoter, is starting an all-white basketball league. And oh, by the way, he says he’s already fielding offers for a reality show that would culminate in a white all-star team playing black minor leaguers. The program’s title? “Snow Ball vs. Bro Ball.”
So it’s come to this: Segregation as a reality TV concept.
The theory behind the ludicrously named "All-American Basketball Alliance” is that whites, in general, are “more fundamentally sound” players than blacks, Lewis told The Associated Press. He says his league – players must be native-born Americans and prove both parents are white – will hearken back to “the nostalgia way of how things used to be.”
What Lewis is attempting to tap into, at best – and let’s go far out of our way to give him the benefit of the doubt – is cynicism.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the breaking of the NBA’s color line in 1950, three years after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball. The “way of how things used to be” evokes a time when some people didn’t have a chance to compete in professional sports based solely on skin color, before Brown v. Board of Education, before anyone could even imagine an African-American president.
Professional basketball has changed drastically over the years, to be sure, and there are legitimate barroom arguments to be waged over which era was best. But it's doubtful there are many folks out there pining for the days of the set shot.
Perhaps the most insulting and absurd part of Lewis’ spiel is the nonsense that “fundamentally sound” playing is a function of race. Tell that to any player of any race who busted his or her butt in high school gymnasiums, college or pro courts honing their hoops skills. Lewis' claim that whites don’t have the “natural athleticism” of blacks negates the hard work of anyone who has achieved success in the sport.
The mania to get on TV, as we’ve seen, can bring out the worst in people. The White House party crashers revealed themselves as blatant self-promoters. The Balloon Boy’s parents put their own ambitions above their children's welfare.
Lewis’ plan, announced in a press release on the eve of Martin Luther King Day, exposes him and any backers as crass opportunists out to exploit the worst in the audience.
The league plans to establish teams in 12 cities, including Augusta, Ga. But Lewis won’t be getting any help from Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
“I could not support in good conscience bringing in a team that did not fit with the spirit of inclusiveness that I, along with many others, have worked so hard to foster in our city," he told the Augusta Chronicle.
Good for Copenhaver – and shame on anyone who helps the league, especially by putting this travesty-in-the-making on TV.
Lewis told AP, “This is not a racial thing.” But he clearly sees pitting black vs. white as a way to grab some green.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.