Garnett, Boston, and race
Around 8:30 this morning, some guy whose name I didn't catch called up WEEI to bitch about the Celtics' acquisition of Kevin Garnett. One of his big complaints--I'm paraphrasing--was that, during yesterday's press conference, Garnett said he'd warmed to coming to Boston after asking a few other players (Antoine Walker, Gary Payton) about the city's racist reputation.
In fact, Garnett didn't say this. He did say he'd asked Walker and Payton about the city. But this was a secondary part of his explanation for why, after balking at a trade to the Celtics before the NBA draft, he'd eventually changed his mind. One big reason, Garnett said, was dissatisfaction with the Minnesota Timberwolves' front office, which 1. had a vision for the team's future that he couldn't agree with and 2. hadn't reciprocated his loyalty to the team. Another big reason: the C's draft-day acquisition of Ray Allen.
Unfortunately, the 'EEI hosts didn't set the caller straight--and the myth of Kevin Garnett's dislike or distrust of (white) Boston continues to grow.
It's time to squash this. As far as I can tell, the idea that Garnett didn't want to come to Boston becuase of the city's racial history was first advanced by Washington Post sportswriter Michael Wilbon. Here's how TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz explained it earlier this month: "When Kevin Garnett announced that he wanted no part of a trade to the
C's, Michael Wilbon speculated on Dan Patrick's ESPNRadio show that
Boston's history might have played a part in Garnett's position." Wilbon also offered his take on Boston and race in a WashingtonPost.com online chat; here's a sample:
A great, great many of us -- black folks -- have had openly hostile and
unpleasant experiences in greater Boston. I'm talking even physical
confrontations. I've been called "Nigger" to my face in Boston Garden
on two occasions, openly and publicly and to no great objection by the
people sitting nearby...I can talk to just about any black person who
spent time in Boston through the 1990s and get similar stories...So I'm
not going into any more anecdotes. I have hundreds. Having said that,
I've been in greater Boston recently and noticed what I feel is a huge
change...The Herald's Steve Bulpett subsequently asked Celtics coach Doc Rivers about Wilbon's claims. Rivers rejected them.
Fast forward to this past Monday, when Herald columnist Gerry Callahan, in a piece on Garnett's arrival in Boston, reminded readers of Wilbon's comments. Quoth Callahan:
In the past month, someone convinced Garnett that teaming up with Pierce and Allen would be his best chance to make his first trip to the NBA Finals. In June, Garnett's agent said it wasn't going to happen and Michael Wilbon of ESPN's PTI said it was because of the racial climate in this city.Two things stand out here. First, in reiterating Wilbon's speculation to refute it, Callahan also links Garnett to Wilbon's arguments. Second, if any black athletes are reluctant to come to Boston, Callahan himself may be partly to blame.
Who says we're not making great strides in that department? A little more than a month later and Garnett is ready to sing along with the Standells and call Boston his home. Maybe Wilbon can fall on the fact that the Celts traded away everyone but Brian Scalabrine....
Just think, Kevin Garnett on Friday and Saturday nights; Randy Moss on Sundays. It's too bad our racial climate is so lousy. We might have been able to attract some athletes to this town.
Here's the bottom line: Garnett shouldn't be held responsible for Wilbon's commentary/speculation. And the local media has a responsibility to keep that from happening.