48 minutes a slave: We progressives! Amidst all the current excitement, William Rhoden appeared on Hardball last night to discuss his new book.
Improbably enough, the book is called “Forty Million Dollar Slaves.” Chris Matthews started like this:
MATTHEWS (4/29/14): In his book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete, William Rhoden, who’s right here, argued that while African-Americans may have achieved wealth from the [NBA], they haven’t necessarily gained or exercised real power within it.No one is saying they’re badly off; the book title merely says they’re “slaves.” And after all, an NBA owner may make even more than a player!
And with us now is him, the author of the book, New York Times sports columnist, William Rhoden. And also, we’ve got joining us a real expert for history, the history of the civil rights movement, former U.S. congressman from Maryland Kweisi Mfume, who’s also a former president of the NAACP.
Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. Congressman, we’ll get to you. I want to start with William here.
MATTHEWS: Give me your basic thrust, because we all think about NBA players as being well off. If they’ve got a 10-year career, they make $5 million, $10 million a year, they may end up saving 50 million bucks, with all the endorsement opportunities. It’s not just the payroll, it’s the endorsements.
MATTHEWS: So how are they badly off, if you will?
RHODEN: Well, nobody is saying they’re badly off. I mean, they’re making money. But you got to figure out, if—if somebody could pay fifteen players $10 million each, how much is he making, you know?
After a few feeble comments by Matthews, Rhoden continued trying to explain why LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are slaves:
MATTHEWS: It’s always about, what is it, half the money coming in the door goes to the players or something that like that?We swear we’re not making this up.
RHODEN: Right. But the point is, they are well off, relatively speaking, many better off than they would be if they’re not playing. But this is an issue of power.
I mean, you can be paid money. A lot of enslaved people actually made money, but they had no power. And they didn’t share in the revenue. It would be different if, like, they said, “OK, on the plantation, you could get 50 percent of the cotton sales.”
By now, we were plainly in Far La-La land. But under current network arrangements, Matthews wasn’t allowed to notice, except in the tiniest ways:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Right.Even now, does it seem like we’re discussing “slaves?” As Matthews puttered around, Rhoden explained that everybody’s on the plantation, even hockey players:
RHODEN: It still wouldn’t— The barbarism is one thing. But at least you could say, well, “OK, well, we split it 50-50.”
RHODEN: But, in this case, there is, it’s sort of like white labor—I mean, black labor, white wealth. So that’s the premise of this book.
MATTHEWS: But didn’t it used to be, before the big development of black athletes’ ability to dominate the NBA, you had white athletes making a lot less?With all those hockey players, we hope the plantation has dentists. Sadly, a white guy like Mike Trout ($144 million) may not even know where he is!
RHODEN: But everybody was making less.
MATTHEWS: But they didn’t own the teams.
RHODEN: Well, but everybody was making less. And the point is, and we talked about this—the point is—that’s the point that Kurtis Blow made. All of them are on a plantation, whether you`re talking about hockey, Major League Baseball, the NBA.
RHODEN: They’re all on a plantation. And probably a lot of white guys don’t know that they’re on a plantation until something hits them.
Might we state the obvious here? When Republicans or conservatives say things like this, we liberals are supposed to go crazy and announce how deeply offended we are. Last night, Matthews played nicely with others.
Question: Is there any quicker way to make progressives seem like world-class fools? When Matthews finally turned to Mfume, the unfortunate change in the cultural era was sadly apparent:
MATTHEWS: Congressman, do you accept this premise that we have got a labor force of—I don’t even call them labor—super talented professionals who make the money, who make the fans come to the games and watch on TV, and the guys who make money off of that—isn’t that the nature of capitalism, just to be blunt about it?Now they've even got Mfume!
MFUME: It is. It is. It is. But the nature of capitalism only moves to create opportunities when there are pressures applied. I agree totally with Bill Rhoden and I agree with Oprah also. It’s a plantation mentality...
For the record, Kweisi Mfume used to be our congressman. In the old days, we even appeared on his TV program! We regard him as a very bright, very decent person. But these are very dumb times.
This is the way progressives self-immolate. Might we talk?
In effect, Mfume seemed to be talking to our own emerging equivalent of the tea party. We liberals laugh at Republican figures when they behave like this.
Politely, Matthews played along with this obvious nonsense. Like the other slaves on the plantation, he is paid millions of bucks every year to know the rules of the game.
We can’t link you to the tape: Perhaps for obvious reasons, it seems the tape wasn’t posted.