Pelicans fans booed Anthony Davis last season while he still played for New Orleans. They’re going to boo him when he returns with the Lakers tonight.
That’s the consequence of his trade request.
But is something else at play, too?
I do think there is a racial component to this. OK? If you took a poll of who the most disliked people in the state of Louisiana is, I think Rich Paul would be at the top of that list.
This is an African-American super-agent trying to dictate terms, trying to tell people what to do.
Aaron Mintz did the same thing in Indiana. Aaron Mintz, who is white, did the same thing in Indiana with Paul George, saying he wasn’t going to re-sign there. It wasn’t that bad.
If you were close to that situation, part of the reason why New Orleans didn’t want to trade him for so long – and, one, they obviously couldn’t get fair value for him. But I think the idea that a black agent was asking – telling, not asking, telling – the team, “You should trade him,” and that he wasn’t going to stay did not go over well in New Orleans. Especially with, I don’t want to say, “that fan base,” but you’re down in the South, man. This was very charged. And I think that when things get ugly emotionally like that, it’s not just about what’s going on on the court. It’s not just about the moves that are being made.
Rod Walker of The Times-Picayune:
“No. No,” Davis said when asked if racism is a significant factor in New Orleans fans’ anger over how last season unfolded. “Not at all.”
Racism absolutely factored into how Davis was treated last season. Racism factors into so many aspects of American life.
Resistance to player empowerment – in a league where majority-white owners have traditionally held significant control over majority-black players – is rooted in racism.
But that isn’t the whole story.
Davis issued his trade request in a way that maximized resentment from Pelicans fans, no matter what their racial views. First of all, he tried to leave their favorite team. That’s enough – especially after Anthony set expectations by repeatedly expressing his affection for New Orleans. But he also requested a trade during the season, sending a team with at least at outside shot of the playoffs into chaos as games were still occurring. On top of all that, he tried to steer himself to the loathed Lakers.
That’s quite different than Paul George. George didn’t request a trade. He told the Pacers he would leave them the following summer. He was obviously trying to induce a trade, but if Indiana kept him the upcoming season, he seemingly would’ve complied. He also had his saga play out during the offseason. If he were still playing, you can bet Indiana fans would’ve booed him.
I think Shelburne is a little too inside the game here. Only a certain segment of diehard fans can identify agents, let alone their races. It’s far more about the players.
Paul is close to an exception, through. Through his representation of LeBron James and unapologetic style, Paul has gained a high level of fame. His blackness certainly affects how people view him.
But it’d be a mistake to isolate Paul, New Orleans or the South. These issues exist far wider. We should discuss them in a fuller context, not as something unique to this situation.