The Price of Race

Questions linger surrounding the dismissal of former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/
Questions linger surrounding the dismissal  of former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/
Questions linger surrounding the dismissal of former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/

A white man may not be able to jump, but he sure as heck knows how to get paid. Steve Kerr, the new Golden States Warriors head basketball coach, can vouch for that. Mark Jackson, who was axed by the Warriors, despite leading Golden State to the postseason the past two seasons,   can concede that fact as well.

Unfortunately, the dynamic parallels in the hiring of Kerr, who is white and the firing of Jackson, who is black, is an open and closed perception of how everything went down.  It all boils down to the race factor. Actually, private sector or not, the issue screams of racial discrimination, but in a down low, kind of way. If you’re evaluated by job performance, Jackson came through on his end, taking the Warriors to heights the teams hasn’t seen in a while.

The last time a Warriors team won 50 games was back during the 1993-94 NBA season. Jackson guided the Warriors to 51 wins this past season. The Warriors were just a couple of seconds away from advancing to the semifinals of the NBA playoffs for the second time in as many years.

For his efforts, Jackson got a reportedly four-year, $8 million deal, and bounced from the coaching ranks, despite his success. Kerr, who has never coached before, got a guaranteed five-year, $25 million deal. On its face, this clearly looks like racial disparity in the workplace. Sadly, a white male comes in and gets paid substantially more money than a proven minority doing the same job, is not an abbreviation. There is an historical pattern to this underlying issue.

It is also very disturbing one. But it keeps happening. However, this move by Golden State owner Joe Lacob is sure to backfire. Unless Kerr takes the Warriors to the Western Conference Finals or the NBA Finals, which is highly unlikely given the roster the Warriors have, he would have done nothing more than Jackson have done.

Unless Kerr is able to have LeBron James and/or Kevin Durant dropped in his lap-that is not going to happen. Kerr has done nothing to show that he is a better coach than Jackson. While everyone has focused their attention to Donald Sterling and his latest mess, the Jackson-Kerr debacle has been vastly underreported and talked about.

People will say that Jackson is just another coach who did not get along with management and got fired. Sure, that could be a valid point. But I don’t think it is in this situation. Kerr, apparently has strong links to the Warriors’ owner and general manager, which ultimately gave him the shot to take over for Jackson.

The old saying of where there’s smoke, there’s fire, is usually true. With the NBA being nearly 80 percent African American, and with the dynamics of players on the Warriors’ roster being mostly black who just saw their proven black coach get fired, the racial tension to all of this should not be easily dismissed.

There is a reason why players have not taken to Twitter or social media to bring in the welcome bandwagon for Kerr. How players showed up at Kerr’s introductory press conference? Outside of Steph Curry’s lukewarm statement on the matter recently, the players have been largely out of sight and out of mind. Their silence is deafening. I hope Kerr and Lacob are wise enough to hear clearly what the players are not saying publicly. Sometimes silence can speak volumes about how people feel or think. People will have to be very naïve to think this is not a matter of race.

Of course, it is, according to at least one player, who spoke on the issue to Bleacher Report without being named.

“Guys are going to look at it from a race standpoint. It shows what this was all about when they cut him as quick as they did. Guys question, ‘Is this really about winning or is it about the way you want the place to look like?”

Sounds like Lacob and Kerr have a big headache on their hands. It’s too bad they won’t be able to consult Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson on this.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1177 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.