Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Minnesota Timberwolves go into the season with only five black players on their 15-man roster, and some people are calling it a conspiracy.From Jerry Zgoda and Dennis Brackin of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
“How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?” asked Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul’s African American leadership council. “I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance.”
That strategy, Terrell and others in the black community believe, is to sell tickets to the Wolves’ fan base, which is overwhelmingly white.
Lou Amundson, JJ Barea, Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour, Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved, and Greg Stiemsma make up 2/3 of the T-Wolves roster, and they are all white.
Minnesota civil rights activist Ron Edwards thinks something is up too, and he told the paper, “It raises some real questions to me about what’s really intended. I think, personally, that it was calculated. Is this an attempt to get fans back in the stands? Minnesota, after all, is a pretty white state.”
There are a few problems with this theory.
First of all, the T-Wolves sold 90.4% of their tickets last year, which ranked 14th in the league. Only two other non-playoff teams ranked in the top 15. And they did it with a majority black roster (8 out of 15 players). So they didn’t have an attendance problem at all.
In addition, it’s clear that the T-Wolves think there is a market inefficiency when it comes to international players. Five players on their roster are from other countries, which is double the league average (~2.5 in 2011-12). Since international players come from predominantly European countries, developing a team with an international focus is inherently going to shift the racial makeup of your roster.
It’s not a race conspiracy, it’s a calculated move to identify under-the-radar players that the rest of the league isn’t looking at.
The theory that basketball fans are more likely to pay to watch white players than black players has been debunked by the last 30 years of NBA history. There’s no chance the T-Wolves have a racist master plan in the works.
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