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I teach my kids that they can do anything if they put their minds to it and do the work. I also teach them that life isn’t always fair, but you can’t let that deter you. I think we all try to teach our kids the value of grit and hard work. For most people, success is about perseverance and overcoming obstacles.
However, that does not mean we should accept the status quo, and not try to improve the uneven playing field that makes it harder for some people to succeed. The idea of hard work and trying to make the environment better for everyone are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. We can teach our kids to be undeterred by obstacles, while simultaneously working to make the game fairer for everyone. It’s called forming a more perfect union, which is exactly what the founders of our country encouraged us to do.
I bring this up because last week I posted a message on Facebook that said “We get more Latino players in the NBA by getting more Latino coaches in the NBA. We get more coaches by getting more Latinos in front office positions”. Most of the comments were supportive, but I also got a few comments from some misguided people including a few Latinos who challenged my statement saying things like “If they were good enough, they would be in the league”, and “Ethnicity has nothing to do with it. The NBA is all about the money, and they put the best players on the court, period”. I know where these people are coming from. Like my kids, they were taught that life isn’t always fair, but if you work hard and do not allow yourself to be deterred by obstacles, you will succeed. There is nothing wrong with this kind of thinking, but it is also naïve and a bit selfish. Advocacy isn’t about making things better for yourself, it’s about making things better for others. It’s thinking in terms of the macro versus only the micro.
L’ATTITUDE has me connected to several sectors including sports. I am a big basketball fan. I played in high school and college and have recently been more involved with the sport because my son also plays at the college level. I have felt for a while, that while Latinos are well-represented in soccer and baseball, they are somewhat overlooked in professional basketball. Of course, there are exceptions. Manu Ginóbili recently was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame and Jaime Jaquez of UCLA is a legitimate candidate for college basketball player of the year. However, I was invited to the NBA All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City. I got the chance to meet with agents, players, and NBA executives. I even got a few moments with a couple of owners including Mark Cuban. I got to know some of these people last September when several of them were invited to L’ATTITUDE, and I can tell you that I am not the only one who recognizes that if we lived in perfect meritocracy, there would be more Latinos in the NBA.
A friend of mine, who is very successful on Wall Street, once told me to stop using the phrase “access to capital” and start using “connection to capital”. When I asked what is the difference he said: “tomorrow some twenty-something-year-old white kid is going to raise 20 million dollars for an idea he has for an app, and that doesn’t happen because he has access, it happens because he has a connection”. There is no question that there are still biases in our society, even in sports. Another person commented on my Facebook page that if my statement about Latinos in the NBA is true, why were there so many Blacks in the NBA before there were any Black coaches or Blacks in the front offices? That is a great question. For whatever reason, Blacks were perceived as good basketball players going back to the sixties. However, that wasn’t always the case, and definitely not in all sports. In football for example, back in the day, Blacks were prominent in speed positions like running backs and wide receivers, but not in “thinking positions” like quarterback. The NFL didn’t field any Black quarterbacks for decades, yet today the top quarterbacks are almost all Black. Is that because Blacks just got better at the quarterback position or was there a bias that took time to overcome?
The point of this blog isn’t just about sports, it’s about understanding that we should all work as if we live in a perfect meritocracy, but we should also strive to create a more perfect union; one where everyone has an equal and fair chance to lead a happy and prosperous life. We can do both…