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The Off-Court Playbook

With COVID-19 and the current uprisings over police brutality and racial injustice, the convergence of sports and politics have once again taken center stage. Much of the chatter has been focused on the NBA. Gobert’s positive test ending the regular season, the bubble restart, the Black Lives Matter courts, the players’ strike, and the owners’ and league’s responses and commitments. All these events speak to the intertwining relationships sports—and more specifically basketball—has with race, politics, and more. 

We seek to use that as a jumping off point to continue the many works of past writers, journalists, and activists that have explored these intersections and what they mean for society as a whole. With our series of articles, The Off-Court Playbook, we’ll explore the players, the team owners, and the NBA as a way to document the flow of money, the results of past and current social justice initiatives, and the broader socio-political impact of the league.

01. The Home Court Disadvantage
02. 1,000 Steves and Connies
03. O-Zone Defense
04. Baseball to the Baseballers!

  • The Home Court Disadvantage

    The Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers—even before a team name is introduced, is prepended by its geography. So much of a team’s identity is interrelated with the city, region, or state that it occupies. This relationship is often framed as a symbiotic one, a team helps create a sense of community, brings in tourism, and assists in developing a neighborhood or an area—in exchange, the community makes the team (and especially the owners) a ton of money. But small-market teams probably know better than any that this relationship is a tenuous one at best, and an exploitation of public resources at worst.Read More ➟
  • 1,000 Steves and Connies

    With liberal-leanings, incredible generosity, and a community oriented approach, fans may have been asking themselves: is Steve Ballmer the ideal NBA owner? It may seem so, as in addition to their Republican support, NBA owners like the Detroit Pistons’ Tom Gores find themselves in recent headlines criticizing his exploitative prison telecom firm. And it’s certainly a stark contrast with former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was ousted from the league due to leaked racist comments, which gave Ballmer the opportunity to purchase the team in the first place. Would the world be better if we had—if not 1,000—thirty Steve Ballmers?Read More ➟
  • O-Zone Defense

    Rich owners like Dan Gilbert make their biggest plays off the court. The Opportunity Zone program: pitched as an economic development tool that uses money received to help level the uneven pace of growth between distressed and non-distressed communities, have dubious results...even worse, they often times present the largest opportunity to the one's least deserving.Read More ➟
  • Baseball to the Baseballers!

    Why should one person make all the decisions of a sports team when it’s the taxpayers and fans that foot the bill for the stadium and the payroll? The die-hard fans brave through the freezing cold Chicago winters and scorching summers in uncomfortable plastic bleachers while Jerry Reinsdorf and owners like him enjoy the game in temperature-controlled luxury rooms. They drink champagne and eat lobster paid for by you, the fan. Perhaps since the workers of the sports teams are the ones that labor and create the product the fans enjoy, we should let the employees of the organization decide what to do with the surplus money—employees from the highest-paid star baseball player to the Cracker Jack seller in the stands or the grass cutter.Read More ➟
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