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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Commissioner: All-White basketball 'no different than Univision'

click to enlarge The Other NBA: No blacks allowed
  • The Other NBA: No blacks allowed

On Monday night, I had a chance to talk to Don "Moose" Lewis, commissioner of the new whites-only basketball basketball league headquartered in Atlanta.

We spoke for about 20 minutes, politely going over variations of the same two questions – is this racist, and is this a publicity stunt?

No surprise on this, but Lewis absolutely does not think all-white basketball is racist. He says he's providing entertainment for a specific group of people.

"I'm appealing to a certain niche or culture of people," Lewis explains. "It's no different than Univision. Univision has programming in Spanish. They're appealing to Hispanics legal or illegal. I'm appealing basically to white middle America."

He went on to say that niche entertainment is, by definition, unappealing to audiences outside the niche. "If one person doesn't like what I'm doing, does that mean I should stop?"

Asked if he himself is racist, he laughed and replied with the all-time best twist I've ever heard on the 'some of my friends are black' response. He says he's promoting a series of boxing matches in Nigeria pitting black boxers against white boxers. Because of the success of his work in Nigeria, Lewis says a group of Nigerians, presumably black people, will soon make him an honorary Nigerian tribal chieftain.

"I'm going through the ritual of becoming a Nigerian chieftain. I hardly think that anyone else thinks I’m racist."

Is the league gonna happen, or is it just a publicity stunt?

Well, yes and yes.

It's absolutely going to happen, he insists. He says the response has been overwhelmingly positive and he thinks he can get 2,000 to 3,000 spectators at games.

But he also copped to the gimmickiness of the league's whites-only requirement. He wouldn't be getting any attention from the media, he says, if his announcement about a new league didn't say the league was whites-only.

"I had a conventional league for a year-and-a-half. I lost a ton of money," he says.

"The press release is basically to garner press. It worked. I've slashed my advertising budget because I don't need it anymore," he says, noting a crew from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (which he calls "The Jon Daily Show") will be interviewing him week.

In other words, Lewis believes he's using the media's shock, horror and condescension to his advantage.

By the way, the league isn't just whites-only. To be eligible, you have to be white and both your parents have to be U.S.-born. I would not be eligible to play, he says, because my parents were born in Iran.

"Stay in shape, though. Maybe I'll start an all-Middle Eastern league," he says.

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