T-Wolves' 'Cream Team' roster is about selling tickets to white fans, black council leader says
David Kahn says the T-Wolves whiteout roster is nothing more than a coincidence.
NBA Cream Team (@NBACreamTeam)
In a piece published over the weekend, the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda and Dennis Brackin went there -- they wrote a story about the Timberwolves' historically white roster, which has been dubbed the 'Cream Team.'
With 10 white players (five American-born, five foreign-born) and just five African-Americans, the T-Wolves' 2012-13 roster is the whitest the NBA has seen since the Bird- and McHale-led Celtics teams of the late 1980s, and two prominent Twin Cities African-Americans think it's more than a coincidence.
From the Strib piece:
Twin Cities black leaders have noticed [the Wolves' whiteness], suggesting the franchise strategically has rolled back the calendar by decades in a league that long has been at the forefront of diversity among America's professional sports leagues.
"How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?" asked Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul's African American leadership council. "I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance."
That strategy, Terrell and others in the black community believe, is to sell tickets to the Wolves' fan base, which is overwhelmingly white.
Terrell's perspective is echoed later in the piece by Ron Edwards, an African-American and longtime Minneapolis civil rights advocate:
[Edwards] said he remembers a day last winter when he was watching the Wolves and the only black player on the floor was Wes Johnson, a situation he calls "somewhat disturbing." His sentiments grew stronger, he said, as he watched the team's roster grow even more white this offseason.
"It raises some real questions to me about what's really intended," Edwards said. "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.''
Terrell calls it "scary" that the Wolves would assemble a roster almost 70 percent white in a sport so dominated by blacks [78 percent of NBA players in 2011-12 were African-American]. For Edwards, the numbers trouble him by the "historical view," what he calls a "nullification of diversity and a reversal of history."
As you'd expect, David Kahn, Wolves president of basketball operations, denies that he, white head coach Rick Adelman, or white owner Glen Taylor consider race when making personnel decisions. Kahn pointed out that the Wolves targeted two black free agents this summer, Nicolas Batum and Jordan Hill, but both players ended up staying with the teams they played for last season.
"I have nothing to be defensive about... [the allegations made by Terrell and Edwards are] patently false," Kahn told the Strib. "Every decision we've made here has been intended to make the team as good as can be, as quickly as can be.''
Furthermore, the three African-American players interviewed for the piece -- Dante Cunningham, Brandon Roy, and Will Conroy -- each said they don't get the sense they're token blacks playing for an organization devoted to acquiring as many white players as possible.
"I've played on teams that maybe had all black guys and the feeling is just the same when I'm out there on the floor playing with these guys," Roy said. "The only problem we have is in the weight room, arguing over what music we're going to listen to."
KFAN's Dan Barreiro -- historically not one to side with T-Wolves management when controversy arises -- also lampooned the allegations made by Terrell and Edwards during his Sunday morning radio show and on Twitter:
Six of Wolves white guys born in Barcelona, Santa Monica, Bijelo Polje, Mayaguez, Izhevsk and Belgorod. No diversity there.-- Dan Barreiro (@DanBarreiroKFAN) October 28, 2012
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.