Hip Hop x Basketball -- 8: Detractors Abound

8:Detractors Abound
Despite the very much displayed facts supporting that hip hop and basketball are blood brothers, there still happens to be groups who’d sooner have it otherwise. 

Following the infamous “brawl at the palace,” NBA Commissioner David Stern reverted back to his pre-Air-Jordan-days and implemented changes that specifically blackballed things that had always been openly embraced by hip hop at large; specifically the players were forbidden from “street” clothes – no jeans/athletic wear, specifically only “dressy” clothes – and big visible necklace/medallion combinations as they entered and exited the arenas in which they played.  It seemed to matter not that they were to be infrequently seen by anyone other than cameras already tasked and properly compensated with being there to cover them, instead of fans or civilian paparazzi – both of whom would lack credentials to gain that kind of access. 

This approach played best into the most lucrative of buyers and investors into his product; the people with something to gain from keeping the image of NBA players as clean as possible while maintaining the connection to the hip hop generation that was and still is white hot around the globe.  That is to say taking an investment that could become volatile quickly and shielding it from variables that run the best chance of never being an issue.
Comparing the four major professional sports (Baseball, Football, Hockey and Basketball) from the beginning of 2012 and up to as of the end of July 2012, 
arrestnation.com has the breakdown per sport as such:
·         Baseball – 9 arrests.
·         Football – 38 arrests.
·         Hockey – zero arrests. 
·         Basketball – 4 (and one was an assistant coach, not a player).

As it were, the crime wave among NBA players that league officials seemed so concerned with heading off was not taking place in their own sport, but in college football – where the lightest month of the seven months that I observed still nearly tripled the NBA’s total over that period with eleven in January.  Protecting one’s investment is never unwise, but using bogeyman tactics to scare people into an issue that does not exists is another issue altogether.  Players and the public at large disagreed with the sweeping changes made to the dress code and conduct policies in the wake of what was the ugliest event of David Stern’s stint as Commissioner, but at the end of the day the players knew where their bread was buttered and fans’ opinions tend not to matter when they do not come appended to a purchase or the reluctance to make one.  The fact that stadiums continued to sell out, league popularity and the brand of basketball would go on to remain at an all-time high in the following months is suggestive that said reluctance was not strong enough to dent their coffers and cause a relaxation of the rules.
In the years that followed, hip hop personalities and NBA players would maintain the relationship with one another that naturally could not be denied no matter what the opinions of their overseers would so happen to be.  Luckily for all involved, though, the relationships seemed to be of a better business sense and as the numbers I cited earlier in this chapter suggests either that the threat itself  was overplayed in the first place (my opinion) or that the fix is working (naturally to be touted as reasoning to continue).
Just the same, corporate sponsors tend to be a bit reluctant to fully get behind an entity when it happens to be often understood alongside another whose history includes a description from the inside out (and vice-versa) of violent and potentially illegal undertones.  With that in mind, it is only understandable that they too as the money providers would make best attempts to get their investments into cereal commercials and onto children’s programming instead of onto rap music video shows.  Being that sports figures are far and away the most memorable and lasting heroes that most kids will have, this is a wholly bulletproof business model that has worked forever and with the only exception being professional boxing, and a simple observation of how that sport has fallen further and further out of the favor of the general public serves as good enough reason to maintain the outward myth of the general innocence of the participants of their sport.

Beyond the above-discussed detractors afforded to both hip hop and basketball when taken together, each is beset by both public and corporate opinions that each is somehow undeserving of the popularity that they have achieved.  The most commonly applied rap against ball players is that they are overpaid when taking time to consider that they are playing “a children’s game,” and the knock on rappers simply hits at the fact that they are being paid at all as they’re said to objectify women, glorify violence, promote gang culture and generally push the general acceptability of ignorant behaviors.  The knock on each is rooted in the public feeling that either medium is easily gotten into professionally or competitively.  Back in “Humble Beginnings,” we discussed how each medium was easily drawn interest to because of the ease of involvement, but it remains very necessary to make it known that “involvement” does not necessarily amount to professional participation.

We will go in and discuss the major tenor emoted against both of our subjects in the above-prescribed order, but the outcome is quite similar.

·         “But they’re making millions to play a childrens’ game!”
If the average NBA arena seats 25,000 people at an average of about $50.00 per seat, and a team sells all the seats, then $1.25million dollars are made every game before one beer has been sold.  Now when it comes time to sell that beer, the beer companies bid with against another to make sure THEIR logo is the one visible to television cameras.  Fast food companies are making the same dealings.  Soap, car, electronics and various other companies are negotiating with the television companies to be the ones who shill THEIR products during televised events to record watching audiences.  Event sponsors and enormous corporations put in large amounts for naming rights of stadiums as a means of getting THEIR logo on the side of the building and in 2 corners of the court.  All of this adds up to the generation of enormous revenue on the back of the physical abilities of twelve active players on each team.  For the owner of the team to pay the employees that generate those extravagant monies anything less than a fair cut of those extravagant monies would be unfair, no?  The sad fact of the matter is that while police, firemen and teachers might be underpaid; their professions simply do not generate the revenue to be shared from that a professional athlete does.

·         “But these rappers are violent thugs who objectify women!”
Funny how these detractors seem to have singled out these particular thugs for this issue, when the whole of popular culture has made such behaviors apparently acceptable.  We’ve seen it played out to the tune of dozens of James Bond books/films, entire rock and roll careers and a crib industry of action movies.  Funny how everyone is well enough within their rights to capitalize on the public’s willingness to consume their violent a misogynistic content when appended to any other medium than hip hop music and culture.  The good thing, here, is that the spending of the consumer public has and will continue to call the shots here.  Hip hop lives on because people with money to spend and opinions to influence continue to put their hard earned money and attention toward it.  Again, these “thugs” might seem less-than-deserving of the extravagant pay rates they’ve earned, but just as with the aforementioned “players of a childrens’ game,” they are more than welcome to their fair share of the revenue they generate.  The sad fact of the matter is that due to predatory contracts and unchecked industry politics, most are UNDER paid compared to what they generate.

As with any organized sport, the ability to throw a ball through a hoop is one thing, but possession of the athletic ability to do so with individuals who are among the best on the planet is entirely another set of circumstances.  Through the advances of modern medicine and nutrition, current players are bigger, stronger and more athletic than those before them.  What still apply to them as to those before them are the simple laws of physics as they apply to the playing of the game of basketball.  Those would include constant changes in motion/direction, an exceptional amount of jumping (and, therefore, landing), the very necessary falling/getting up and the corresponding stresses to joints/muscles.  Considering those variables, to simply assume that the 360 players currently active on NBA rosters and the 90 waiting to take one of their places had an easy road getting there – especially considering where a great many came from, compared to players of other sports – could not be further from the truth.  Most players in the NBA first picked up a basketball around Kindergarten and will never put it down.

Similarly, and again coming from similar beginnings and often from the same detractors, hip hop artists who are ever to see their product on television or in stores don’t just wake up one day and make it there.  While to a great many, it might seem as if they are “talking to a beat,” anyone who has actually tried to write a rhyme can attest to just how difficult it is to do.  Add to that simple technical difficulty the constraints of having to make your points within a certain number of lines and at a prescribed tempo, it becomes more difficult.  On the other side of this, you are left with the task of selling yourself to the check-writers who will then work with you in proving to a very fickle and subjective public music that you have worked hard on.  Add to that understanding the confusing maze of paperwork, legal statutes, travel requirements and usually having to do all of this on your own dime until you have sold any records.  All of those variables add up to amount to the fact that the artists that even make it to the public eye to be denigrated in the court of public opinion are the very lucky and VERY few that make it even that far.  Music at large is a highly competitive marketplace.  When one stops to think for a moment that hip hop artists have willingly gotten into a segment of that market that is marginalized even by those with ultimate control over who makes it and who does not, it is due proper respects that what they’ve chosen to feed their families doing is far from simple.

A large part of detraction from those who seem to be unfairly against the plights of rappers and ball players is simple jealousy.  “I am toiling away at a job that may not be covering all of my desires, yet they are being lavished with cash and benefits for doing something [that appears to be] so simple that anyone could do it!”  Some may understand the fact that the purveyors of these “simple” professions are not as simple as they so seem.  If it actually were that simple, then professional basketball and popular music would have no financial advantage over the aforementioned teacher, policeman, fireman or even an average call center employee.  The unfortunate fact of the matter, though, is that the voice of those who get it and respect the difference is far quieter than that of the blowhard who simply misses the irony of the role that his courtside seat and beers he bought to build up the courage served in his yelling of his opinion at the players tasked with entertaining him for 3 hours of his night.


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