This year’s second season finale of VH1’s Basketball Wives scored its most successful episode with 2.3 million total viewers, becoming the highest rated VH1 telecast since the 2009 VH1 Hip Hop Honors.
Now in its third season Basketball Wives continues to bring in big ratings. But despite drawing leagues of fans, many have cried foul over the show’s negative portrayals of black women on reality television.
Basketball Wives cast member and executive producer Shaunie O’Neal, the ex-wife of NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal, recently wrote an op-ed claiming that her series showcases black women in a positive light.
O’Neal revealed that watching reality TV is one of her guilty pleasures, however she finds some of the content disturbing. “The problem for me is when black women are portrayed as only being that way and labeled different than their non-black counterparts for the same type of behavior. That’s when it becomes negative and damaging to our image. I’m not saying we have to create shows that only paint a pretty picture about who we are, but there should be a balance and most of all some integrity to the shows we create.”
“I do believe some of the shows featuring African-American women have positive story lines and are not meant to tear black women down. Shows like [BET’s] Tiny & Toya and Monica: Still Standing, [TVOne’s] “LisaRaye: The Real McCoy,” [VH1’s] What Chili Wants and [WE tv’s] The Braxtons.”
O’Neal says she wanted to bring that same sensibility to Basketball Wives. “I wanted to show what life is really like when you are with a professional athlete — and that sometimes all that glitters isn’t gold,” she said.
Many African-Americans would strongly disagree with O’Neal’s appraisal of Basketball Wives. Some critics are even accusing the show of setting the black community behind.
NBA players like Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas and Chris Bosh and have been vocal about their disapproval of the series, which they believe portrays the relationships of NBA athletes in a negative way.
During a 2010 interview, Basketball Wives star Suzie Ketcham revealed that “not just the players but the whole entire NBA hates this show,” and the Miami Heat allegedly have restricted players and their wives from appearing on the series.
Last month VH1 announced that a new team of basketball wives will be introduced when Basketball Wives: LA premieres August 29, 2011. The cast includes: Kimsha Artest (wife of Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers), Gloria Govan (fiancée of Matt Barnes, Los Angeles Lakers), Laura Govan (sister of Gloria Govan), Jackie Christie (wife of Doug Christie, former player for the Los Angeles Clippers) and Imani Showalter (fiancée of Stephen Jackson, Charlotte Bobcats) as well as others.
The fate of O’Neal’s new franchise, Basketball Wives LA, has yet to be determined, but if its predecessor is any indication, the new series is bound to court its share of drama.