If you haven’t yet heard, there is some controversy surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves’ new-look team and the skin color of the majority of its players.
“How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?” Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul’s African American leadership council asked Jerry Zgoda and Dennis Brackin of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance.”
Terrell is certainly a man of high-standing, and statements he makes hold a level of credibility. His observations are not inaccurate… but is his diagnosis of the team’s motivation legitimate?
It’s absolutely true that the Timberwolves roster looks completely different entering the 2012-13 season than it did last year. In 2011-12, 78 percent of Minnesota’s roster was black. Coming out of the offseason, 10 of the squad’s 15-man roster are white.
While admittedly an unusually assembled group of players, I believe Terrell’s allegations are completely false—for several reasons.
First of all, the only thing Terrell is focusing on here is the skin color of the players; he has failed to acknowledge how ethnically diverse Minny’s roster actually is. While 80 percent of the starting lineup is “white” (forward Brandon Roy is currently slated as the only black starter), the ethnic makeup of the five includes Russia, Montenegro, Spain and the United States. Since it’s difficult for a small-market team to bring in top free agents, part of the strategy is to go global. In all actuality, the Timberwolves prove to be one of the most diverse teams in the league.
Fellow activist Ron Edwards also spoke up about the fair-skinned lineup. “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.”
It’s true that the majority of ticket buyers in Minnesota will be white, based on the Midwest’s general population. Bringing up this fact is irrelevant, though, when one looks at Timberwolves history. David Whitley, AOL Fanhouse Columnist, pointed out the following:
[Timberwolves fans] worshipped Kevin Garnett. Tickets sales weren’t even a problem last year. The T-wolves sold 90.2 percent of their seats, ranking 14th in the league despite the fact there were eight black guys on the roster.”
Those figures were way up from the previous three seasons. It had nothing to do with color. It had everything to do with the team not being a complete joke. In that sense, Edwards is right. There is a super-secret calculated strategy at work here.
It’s called trying to win.
Whitley nails it right on the head. Ticket sales don’t seem to be a problem at this point in time, and the sales will only increase if the team wins games. David Kahn and Co. worked over the offseason to bring in players that could accomplish that goal, and it’s insulting to both the franchise and the team to insinuate intolerant, ulterior motives.
“Every decision we’ve made here has been intended to make the team as good as can be, as quickly as can be,” commented Kahn in response to the Civil Rights group questioning.
And if you think it’s only the white individuals speaking up for Minnesota, it’s not. Roy, who came to Minny during the offseason, is grateful for the second chance the Timberwolves are offering him and excited to play for a team holding strong potential.
Roy emphasized that these allegations and speculations are uncalled for, saying that “it’s just basketball” and people are overanalyzing the situation.
“I never really had to feel like I’m the only black guy out here,” he said. “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. The only problem we have is in the weight room, arguing over what music we’re going to listen to.”
Dante Cunningham and Roy signed with Minny over the offseason, and each is black. Had the Timberwolves really been going for players of a certain color rather than a certain skill set, the two forwards would not have been targeted.
While some may feel that Minnesota is selecting players with a somehow racist attitude, I urge those individuals to take a step back and listen to what they are saying.
Chris Kluwe, current punter for the Minnesota Vikings, voiced his opinion on the situation. “I think [the accusations] are silly,” Kluwe said (via personal interview). “There will be a problem if they’re blatantly passing up better players based on the color of their skin, but they’re trying to field the best team possible.”
If I may be respectfully assertive for a moment, I believe these Civil Rights activists should refocus their concerns on issues off the court—issues genuinely rooted in misunderstanding, cruel intentions and racial tension.
Activists, you accuse Minnesota of looking at skin color, when really—you’re the ones looking only at the surface. For now, let the Minnesota Timberwolves be who they’ve been all along: a franchise bringing in talented, hard-working players that can win games and attract fans.
That’s all there is to see.
Lindsey Young is a graduate of Northwestern College and an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Currently working full time at her alma mater, she continues to edit and write for BleacherReport.com and on her blog Making the Call in pursuit of a career in sports journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @lilshortie2712.