On Saturday, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, no stranger to racial controversy, made a shocking comparison when she suggested that the NBA was basically the same thing as slavery. The host was wrapping a segment on the NBA and teasing a segment on reparations when she made this startling statement about the NBA:
"Wealthy owners? Check. Profit made from the sale of black bodies? Check. Racial angst? Mmm, check."
Aside from being deliberately offensive and too cute by half, the statement is a baldly ridiculous assessment. The NBA is as much about the "sale of black bodies" as the medical profession is about the sale of doctors' hands and eyeballs. This shouldn't require explaining, but being paid for a skill that uses your body is not the same thing as someone literally putting your body up for sale. It may seem the host was just looking for a provocative segue, but that would ignore her statement earlier in the episode leading into the story about Mark Cuban and the NBA.
"You can't really talk about reparations and ignore the modern day wealthy Americans who own teams made up predominantly of black men and profit from their bodies and labor.”
It is hard to imagine a profession that wouldn't be considered slavery by Melissa Harris-Perry's calculus. Except, maybe, the NHL.