NBA team catches flak for being ‘too white’

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Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko tries to drive past Milwaukee Bucks center Samuel Dalembert during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. Minnesota won 100-76. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko tries to drive past Milwaukee Bucks center Samuel Dalembert during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. Minnesota won 100-76. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

It’s a question not often posed when discussing today’s NBA: are certain teams too white? The inverse — are teams, or the NBA for that matter, too black — has been raised several times in recent years. In a league where black players have made up at least 75 percent of team rosters since the 1991-92 season — the idea of a team being too white seems somewhat  out of place.

But this week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on the overwhelming number of white players on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster.  Reporters Jerry Zgoda and Dennis Brackin call the team’s roster the “whitest since the Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s.”

“How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?” Tyrone Terrill asked the paper. Terrill is the chairman of St. Paul’s African-American Leadership Council and former director of St. Paul’s Human Rights Department.

The paper also quotes Ron Edwards — another advocate for civil rights in Minnesota — who describes a time he watched the T-Wolves play last year as “somewhat disturbing” because there was only one black player on the floor:

“It raises some real questions to me about what’s really intended. I think, personally, that it was calculated. Is this an attempt to get fans back in the stands? Minnesota, after all, is a pretty white state.”

Edwards is the former head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and hosts a television show in Minneapolis dealing with black issues, according to David Whitley of AOL Fanhouse. 

Last year, author and writer Buzz Bissinger suggested the NBA was losing popularity because its white fan base was having trouble relating to the NBA’s black stars.

White players like ex-Chicago Bulls forward Brian Scalabrine have often been fan favorites — despite  minimal playing time and little to no presence in the box score following games. Scalabrine even jokingly received MVP chants during a game on the road. Bench players of all races, however, are lauded for the ‘intangibles’ they often provide a team in the form of energy, hustle and plays commentators often refer to as ‘scrappy.’

The Timberwolves have five black players this season on its 15-man roster. The team’s black players may have noticed, but aren’t overly concerned. Timberwolves’ management has dismissed the criticism from the likes of Terrill and Edwards- – attributing the team’s roster makeup to “circumstance” and the team’s intention to “scour the globe” to get the best players to come to Minnesota.

Some columnists have criticized the sentiments expressed by Terrill and Edwards for failing to acknowledge the international influence the NBA has today. One blogger also pointed out the team’s most famous player was African-American — Kevin Garnett.

Follow theGrio’s Todd Johnson on Twitter @rantoddj