The Minnesota Timberwolves: "Hoopers In A Cold State For Black Folks"

May 15, 2018 | Publisher: cynthcarm | Category: Sports |  

The Minnesota Timberwolves "HOOPERS IN A C OLD S TATE FOR BLA CK FOLKS" By: Ralph L. Crowder III Minnesota Timberwolves autographed basketballs Photo freedomradioandtv.com Author Note I was initially asked to write this article by a National Sports Media Platform after giving an interview about Prince & various issues surrounding his death called: "Black in Minneapolis." The media platform which will remain unnamed, requested me to pen a written piece examining the progress of an up and coming Minnesota Timberwolves NBA franchise. An angle for the article subject matter was to understand this team's success with newly acquired black players in and around the state's troubling profile regarding race. The article was completed in December and shelved due to creative differences, professional views and direction of perspective. To be more specific the national sports media platform and their Black Editor did not want to loose any relationships with the NBA or Timberwolves franchise. These unfortunate realities prevent a true understanding of systemic issues impacting most if not all Black Journalist who desire to write an honest account of the people, places and things that shape the climate of professional sports. This was a final draft of a completed article that has remained unpublished until now. *Red text indicates the original draft notes from editor of mentioned media platform The Minnesota Timberwolves "HOOPERS IN A C OLD S TATE FOR BLA CK FOLKS" The Minnesota Timberwolves late October 2017 home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder put the basketball world on notice. Judging by the look on Carmelo Anthony's face, that second early season defeat against the Thunder (at the newly renovated Target Center) was surprising to audiences just like the Black Santa Claus at the Mall of America. For casual fans who normalized yearly flashes of potential, this game marked a different vibration in the city of Minneapolis and the "re-branded" NBA franchise. Excitement in the crafted combination of players, including new additions of Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal (Jigga J Crossover) Crawford have brought a sense of closure to years of bottom down seasons of defeat. Front line corporate media executives and inner-city sports gurus have met in their separate places of operation and officially co-signed the T Wolves. This team's demonstrated urgency to win has set a new wave of deserving buzz and curiosity in the sports world of basketball. The land of 10,000 lakes and Purple Rain is also going through a change in its outward identity. At the same time, new shine is pointed to the local basketball scene, the cold winter chill came with similar groundbreaking interest for the Minneapolis & Saint Paul 2017 local political elections. The capital city of Saint Paul made a historic first when they elected a Black Mayor, largely due to a very public racial controversy with their local police union. Hennepin Avenue Minneapolis, Minnesota Photo freedomradioandtv.com Minneapolis moved into international politics electing two Black Transgender candidates for city council, both who will represent areas of historically black neighborhoods. With that shift in politics, I looked at my upcoming Timberwolves experience as an interesting journey of observation and further discovery. *Spot on Minnesota is the current or former home of Prince, Philando Castile, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Hubert Humphrey, Bob Dylan, Keith X Ellison Muhammad, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Mint Condition, Walter Mondale, Isiah Washington, (New York City's most celebrated high school point guard in years) and a popular white Albino Muslim rapper named Brother Ali. Minnesota has an interesting diversity of political and cultural influences. Digging deeper, some may not be aware that it is also home to the dangerous "full flight" racially charged legacy of Charles Lindbergh (MSP Charles Lindbergh International Airport). The backdrop of that history is reflected today where Minnesota leads the nation in some of America's worst social/economic conditions for Black People. Long before H&M advertised Back youth in "Monkey Business" t-shirts there was Minneapolis Television Network "Minnesota leads the nation in some of America's worst social/economic conditions for black people" Beside the examples of international media covering tragic life ending police encounters or having an average black family income lower than black folks who live in Mississippi, there was an alarming 82 percent spike in suicides among Minnesota's black population between 2010 and 2014. So here indeed is an interesting sports story, something unique but not original in the era of kneeling athletes or hyper sensitive fear based reactions to Lavar Ball. "82 percent spike in suicides among Minnesota's black population between 2010 and 2014" I attended the TWolves team practice designated for hand picked local/national press one day after the OKC home victory. Thankful for the access to the new facilities, (which didn't come without a long coordinated struggle by a dedicated assistant) I was able to get a quick peek into the brand behind the recent hype. Andrew Wiggins working on his three point drills, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng at another hoop practicing on their handles and rebound skills. This new squad was something different than previous years, there was a quiet stable strength felt in the gym. Thoughts about the missing presence of Ricky Rubio wasn't even considered in this team's upgraded look. Timberwolves practice day media call Saturday October 28, 2017 Photo freedomradioandtv.com "The street buzz the team had generated in community barbershops or recreation centers didn't match the developing narrative being documented by "preferred media outlets." Timberwolves practice Saturday October, 28, 2017 Photo freedomradioandtv.com At first sight it was interesting to watch a predominately black team and support staff finish their workout routine after a symbolic victory of noted progress. It was also an interesting observation not seeing the progress for any other Black Journalist sharing this "access" to an emerging national sports story. The street buzz the team had generated in the community barbershops or recreation centers didn't match the developing narrative being (recorded) documented by "preferred media outlets." *Not feeling this narrative, I 100% get where you're coming from, but that's not the story. This brief visit inside the professional world of fast break dunks, fade away jump shots and butter "jelly" rolls provided immediate insight into the politics surrounding who and what stories are being told to the general public. Sports, Race and greater society started to connect and ironically mirror the stated themes of this article. There was a feeling similar to the outdoor winter chill as all activities in the practice gym started to wind down. "My perspective of sports is coming from a Black Man in his late forties who grew up before the total commodification of Hip Hop and Basketball Culture" Coach Tom Thibodeau and Karl-Anthony Towns were the first called to answer various questions from a group of engaged media stat scholars. It was an exercise of patience to see the dynamics of interaction take place. The coach who appeared surprised but cool with a new face in the mix answered the usual game related concerns. Thibodeau demonstrated a show of support for his players growing as a team. Towns, the big man with that splash from the three point line, seemed to have a firm but guarded confidence in his responses to what appeared to be a very familiar press core. He answered my question regarding the vibe of Minneapolis and any expectation of the team's recent win pattern being effective in re-energizing the community. Professional sport teams have the potential to wake up a city's spirit of loss, frustration and isolation. This condition of stunted growth can be readily observed around the team's downtown practice facility. The area has an overwhelming homeless population of black people living in need of shelter in this cold weather climate. As an unknown face it was important to be equally persistent as other reporters when asking questions to the next player available. To be clear my perspective of sports is coming from a Black Man in his late forties who grew up before the total commodification of Hip Hop and Basketball Culture. I had lost some relationship to these two connections that shaped much of my foundation in younger years of passion and expression. The purpose for attending this practice was to identify and observe more understanding for a group of young men who strive to maximize their athletic excellence but could be easily shielded from realities of the local communities they play in. *Excellent insight, I'd use that more than explaining how an NBA team has mostly white analytic reporters at practice. "The purpose for attending this practice was to identify and observe more understanding for a group of young men who strive to maximize their athletic excellence but could be easily shielded from realities of the local communities they play in." Timberwolves Center Karl-Anthony Towns with practice day press Photo freedomradioandtv.com Sugar Hill Tournament - Harlem, NY Photo freedomradioandtv.com When Jamal Crawford was introduced as the only other player to answer questions, there was an immediate expectation of interacting with a familiar face. The talented veteran from Seattle shared similar influences in a specific time of a lost era. Black products of cultural creativity like: Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, 36 Chambers, Tribe, Biggie, The Ruckers, And 1 Mixtapes, Pac, Iverson and the classic basketball documentary "Soul In The Hole" were all seasonings sprinkled in the pot of J Crossover's style. The pivotal OKC game further highlighted his value and proven ability to get buckets against the league's top players. He made coming off the bench an art form, showing a humble new way to get shine and respect from his peers. "The talented veteran from Seattle shared similar influences in a specific time of a lost era." The selected subject matter of this article took a different turn when the pressure and psychological realities of being the only Black Reporter in the space kicked in. I was there to get a story not become part of one. Obtaining similar accommodations as the other white media outlets, (which varied from corporate to community) was not extended as an equal opportunity for interaction with the team. The feeling or impression made was if my credentials weren't one of being equivalent to a television host on a nationally syndicated network, this "club house" was for members only. With those conditions in mind how are reporters/ media who come from the same communities as the overwhelming majority of NBA players able to participate in the field of sports journalism? Are there broader issues and institutional practices in this profession that aren't being talked about publicly? Is the thought that all we want is "access to the game" even with the understanding there are separate drinking fountains of engagement? Whose fault is this? Have black journalists normalized an unnatural excitement for their submissive role in sports related media? Timberwolves practice press call Saturday, October 28, 2017 Photo freedomradioandtv.com "Are there broader issues and institutional practices in this profession that aren't being talked about publicly?" Independent journalist Ralph L. Crowder III Photo freedomradioandtv.com "Playing the game," I chose not to ask a few planned questions in this close knit group of preferred reporters. Inquiries regarding Black Athletes feeling a burden to speak out on social/ political issues of the day would have no doubt been perceived as touching nerves. Being a student of my environment, any questions relating to that particular subject matter from the only black face in the group would have been viewed as a revolutionary act of rebellion. Perceptions of "free independent thought" usually provokes quick termination of "house visits." At the prior evenings nationally televised OKC game there was a large contingency of press. All checked in and walked through the designated doors, maybe three out of sixty present were black. For some strange reason my interview coordinator was unable to secure our access. My ability to gather player comments or document team interaction was made available only to the practice the following day. Every press member at the team practice excluding me was provided the normal credentials and access to the previous evenings game. *Did you get any useable quotes from any players? As I said KAT speaks openly, Shabbazz Muhammad is the son of two parents that converted to Islam so he provides some good points, Wiggins would be good as well. Individuals who excel in any arena of life can rise above their obstacles. History shows those who take risks without fear of failing are qualities exhibited by most who achieve high levels of success. I made a conscious effort not to stand out by avoiding certain topics that may have been risky, "playing the game" not to jeopardize fitting into a small group of selected white journalist. Covering this team of black players seemed to have an interesting racial access code that was extended on a trial basis. Considering the external change of seasons and the cold temperature outside, it didn't surprise me that this was a recognizable freeze. The problems of the state's inequalities were on full display but the "newly packaged" black team was winning? "Free independent thought" usually provokes quick termination of "house visits." Independent journalist Ralph L. Crowder III, MN Timberwolves #11 Jamal Crawford Photo freedomradioandtv.com The decision to be a guarded journalist impacted me greatly following Crawford's answer to a question about his role on a new team seeking greater responsibility to win. His response made me pause and reflect like a visiting cousin cracking open an old school family photo album. The young man who shared language and a similar cultural experience said something that made me think beyond politics. It also grounded a purpose for being there in a political context. Jamal Crawford said,"At the core of who I am, I'm just a Hooper! I don't care if I start come off the bench or whatever, I wanna win more than anything." That answer immediately opened up a brief detour in our exchange. I knew exactly what being a "hooper" meant. It's a term and identity different than being just a 'basketball player." Everybody can't take the enormous social and political pressure required to rebel against the status quo of normality. A "hooper" is one who seeks freedom of expression and usually is attacked because of their willingness to stand and push boundaries and open doors that may have been closed previously. A "hooper" is something you are. A basketball player is something you do for your temporary role in the game. Jamal Crawford reminded me that I was and always have been a "hooper!" Minnesota is going to benefit from this style of veteran leadership mark my words Final draft concluded December 2017 *I don't feel like his answer and your apprehension about asking certain questions will correlate with the reader. The intro and build up are excellent, but then the story takes a left turn that isn't what we want. "I'm just a Hooper! I don't care if I start come off the bench or whatever, I wanna win more than anything." Immediately following the December 2017 draft submission of this article, my pro day experience with Minnesota's Timberwolves got shook and crossed over. A brief visit to "the house" was done and all subsequent media access requests were denied. The national media platform who approached me for an independent lens on a story specifically about race, basketball and this black team's success in the state of Minnesota disappeared like the Spring snow blizzard of 2018. UPD ATE & C ONCL USION 2018 Minneapolis Spring snowstorm remnant Photo freedomradioandtv.com "All subsequent media access requests were denied." ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, Independent journalist Ralph L. Crowder III Photo freedomradioandtv.com Escaping of this contemporary cultural captivity continued to motivate me as an independent journalist! Working with a group of inner city youth from Project F.e.e.d (a community based program designed to enhance skill in the field of media), this experience has inspired me to further challenge an environment appearing to have very limited access for black folks not dribbling a basketball. There will be a follow up to the Timberwolves organization to open their doors to youth journalists from the noted media program in Minneapolis. This group of talented young ones are a segment of the known impressionable audience who consume constant targeted sports marketing and promotional media campaigns. Billions of dollars are spent to inspire inner city youth to dream to be a part of the NBA's professional brand. What if those dreams were to lead the same children to be writers not players? Is it possible there are some who'd rather be the next Stephen A. Smith, and not like Mike? I hope the T Wolves next attempt to give a first impression will role model a different value system. It is also an expectation that more black reporters not be satisfied and excited to humbly receive separate forms sport "drinking fountain" experiences. The progress of opportunity and representation for players has evolved but ownership always reflects the norms within any organization. It is my understanding Kevin Garnett is seeking to buy-into or buy-out the current owner of the Minnesota franchise. The aesthetic of street basketball has always been a preferred source of free expression for me. Any real hooper knows their relationship to that source of freedom and creativity is sometimes worth more than money. Sports stories like this continue to be written for those who are fearless to shoot a three while a defender is in your face. "What if those dreams were to lead the same children to be writers not players? Is it possible there are some who'd rather be the next Stephen A. Smith, and not like Mike?" The Timberwolves season finally ended with a playoff birth after a 14 year drought. My observation and about the canvass of Minnesota and predictions regarding one of the last NBA players standing from a lost era of hip hop/youth culture turned out to be correct. If there is a next time my goal will be to write a story more about the players, hopefully avoiding this narrative of difficulty for black journalist covering mostly black players in sport dominated by black athletes. A welcoming environment can go a long way for a writer or player interested in a productive visit or a continued role to further assist an up-and-coming teams desire to win. Peace *I get where you're going here, but the reader won't care about what we went thru to get the access or what the assignment was, they care about getting an insiders view into the Twin Cities and the Wolves. Overall this team is about a youth movement that is being guided by vets and Jamal. This should be reflected in the story and that should be tied in to the spot on intro and build up. NBA 1st Round Picks Class of 2000 Photo courtesy of the National Basketball Association "Predictions regarding one of the last NBA players standing from a lost era of hip hop/youth culture turned out to be correct." About the writer: Ralph L. Crowder III Father, independent journalist, multimedia producer and media personality. freedomradioandtv.com booking@cynthcarm.com Published May 11, 2018 Freedomradioandtv.com Press

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An article by independent journalist Ralph L. Crowder III, regarding the up and coming NBA Timberwolves team against a backdrop of social critique of Minnesota's nation leading inequalities concerning the Black Community.  A very unique inside perspective from an Independent black journalist and extremley rare within the professional sports world. The article gives attention to the veteran leadership of Jamal Crawford during a season where the Timberwolves clinched their first playoff birth appearance in 14 years. It also challenges a normalized fear for black journalist who may encounter challenges of unequal treatment in a league dominated by black talent.

View audio/visual version: The Minnesota Timberwolves: "Hoopers In A Cold State For Black Folks"

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