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Dominique Wilkins: Time to talk about racism

Dominique Wilkins | 4/29/2014, 3 p.m.
I am extremely proud of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Dominique Wilkins, retired professional basketball player and a vice president of basketball operations with the Atlanta Hawks, was an NBA All-Star nine times and is one of the all-time leading scorers in the history of the NBA. In 2006, Wilkins was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. CNN

— We live in a society where public perception dictates reality. So we carefully craft and weave sound bites and statements, giving the public enough until it moves into the next news cycle. The noise consumes 24 hours. Distracted, preoccupied, the public moves on to the next story.

Can the gap be closed? I for one am clearly choosing to accept the responsibility yet again to craft and weave my words in the spotlight in this case to open up and invite the continued conversation on racism.

As professional athletes we live a privileged life. We're blessed to make a living in line with the market, and the market generates billions of dollars only thanks to the fans that pay to watch our sports and buy our brands. But we are employees at the end of the day.

We expect a safe and fair environment to do what we are paid to do. We expect to advance in executive positions where qualifications dictate and where we have been given the opportunity to shine -- not because of our race or gender, but because of our abilities. We pour our passion into our jobs, and we accept our paychecks gladly.

Just like any other work space, we will always run across people who will be jealous of the individual success of another or the flip side of that, find ourselves boxed in because of the direct selfish intentions of the powers in positions above you. In the competitive business of professional sports, there will always be those in positions of ultimate power whose job it is to dictate your very future based on a laundry list of reasons.

As an executive with a level of significant impact and inherent power, you are expected to carry yourself with dignity, respect, integrity and thoughtfulness. A leader should exhibit these qualities at all times. I have been extremely fortunate to play for and work for some of the greatest owners the NBA has ever had, and I continue to value those relationships because of the qualities they showed not just in business, but more important, in life.

I feel deep disdain that this discussion of race was generated out of the highest level of the very sport that has given me so much happiness, confidence and success. It is with my obligation as a representative of the NBA to uphold the values we live and lead by as well as share my experiences with the next generation to make our sport and community better. It is my deep desire to impress upon current and future players that NBA leadership will continue to strip away the layers of underlying and seemingly unchecked racism.

As for Sterling's comments, they really mean nothing in the big picture. In the end, he will be one man, one ignorantly misguided outlier who galvanized and brought even closer the tightknit community of the NBA. He will be consumed by the noise of yet another news cycle and forgotten.

It is incumbent upon us as executive leaders and community leaders to continue to be outspoken to ensure the lessons of this moment do not become part of that same noisy news cycle.

The conversation is way bigger than any one man.

Dominique Wilkins, retired professional basketball player and a vice president of basketball operations with the Atlanta Hawks, was an NBA All-Star nine times and is one of the all-time leading scorers in the history of the NBA. In 2006, Wilkins was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The opinions in this commentary are solely those of the author.