Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a piece on Jay-Z‘s not so small influence on the Brooklyn Nets. The article talks about how the hip-hop icon, despite owning a paltry one-fifteenth of one percent of the newly relocated Brooklyn franchise, is the team’s most sellable face- sorry Deron Williams. It’s pretty much a gush piece detailing how Jay-Z is helping in pushing the team’s brand to the next level by doing everything from logo designs to recruiting key player personnel to having his likeness on giant billboard displays. That’s all good to know but the real story is buried four graphs into the report– the NBA apparently doesn’t like their Blacks in black. Say word?
After years of trying to pull away from the hold that hip-hop culture has held on the sport the NBA allegedly had issues with the creative direction of their rapping celebrity part-team owner. Jay-Z helped design the club’s so Brooklyn black and white color scheme but the league allegedly objected to the colors initially, something they fiercely deny. Why? Because, according to the Times article, they allegedly felt that black uniforms on their Black players is aesthetically less appealing.
According to the New York Times:
“The N.B.A., according to a person with knowledge of the discussion, thought that African-American athletes did not look good on TV in black, an assertion that a league spokesman adamantly denied”
The NBA eventually relented after a personal plea from Jay-Z but I can’t help but wonder if the league felt this way in 1976 when the San Antonio Spurs entered the NBA with the exact team colors, or in 1988 when both the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic were black-clad lowly expansion teams? Do other sports league complain about how African-Americans in black uniforms look like shadows with shadows? Maybe it’s a problem similar to that M&M commercial where the new brown-shelled lady M&M is mistaken as naked. Do league officials actually believe that Black basketball players in black uniforms create visual problems for television viewers who lack the eye capacity to discern black cloth from dark skin? Or is it something else?
I’m calling bullshit on NBA commissioner David Stern. He doesn’t want the Brooklyn Nets, who abandoned their Team USA-looking New Jersey diggs for what might as well be “black hoodie rap” uniforms, to become the new era Los Angeles Raiders. He doesn’t want what happened to LA in the late 80s/ early 90 with their very menacing gang-friendly team colors to become the official logo of Brooklyn corner dwellers everywhere. Actually, that’s good for business. Ask the Yankees. LA had NWA, Brooklyn has Jay-Z. The NBA can’t stop it. The Nets have officially become too Hip-Hop for league executives. The cool has arrived. Merchandise is already flying across register counters. Arena music is already changing from Bruce Springsteen to “Brooklyn We Go Hard”. The new look Nets is ready to play. Now all they have to do is actually win games.