Cuban comments

Breaking: Colin Cowherd is still saying dumb things about the “painkiller” lawsuit. He really needs to have a doctor on the show to explain to him why being a medical practitioner is not the same as being a used car salesman. Doctors are *not* responsible for everything bad that happens to patients under their care. But they do have a specific and distinct set of legal and ethical responsibilities that cannot be analogized to typical market transactions.

It’s painful to listen to Cowherd bloviate about this stuff.

By the way, Rachel Aviv recently wrote an article in the New Yorker about a Kansas doctor (sub req’d), Stephen Schneider who, along with his wife, was sentenced to thirty years in prison for negligence in the prescription of pain medications to patients he saw over many years at his Wichita clinic. The article is not a hatchet job. It details the complex issues at play, including the fact that many of Schneider’s patients – mostly working class – were suffering from chronic, debilitating pain, that many were pleading, demanding and begging for as many meds as he could prescirbe and that Schneider seems really to have wanted to have helped alleviate their suffering.

That doesn’t change the fact he had a set of responsibilities to his patients irrespective of what they did and didn’t want.

OK, enough of that.

On to my old pal, Mark Cuban. I agree with Bomani Jones (who is, among other things, an epic tweeter), that Cuban deserves credit for turning the question of prejudice on himself, rather than using Donald Sterling’s remarks as an opportunity to do what too many have done – point to the “village idiot,” as Jones put it, as a way of making us feel better about ourselves.

This is more or less what I wrote when Sterling’s conversation with Ms. Stiviano first surfaced.

Jones was also critical of one of the iconic examples of fear Cuban invoked – that of the hoodie-wearing African American male. The obvious connection to Trayvon Martin – though Cuban denied that’s who he was thinking of – prompted a lot of anger. Cuban later apologized for that part of his comments, though he stood by the larger point – that we all have prejudices or, as Mike Francesa (yes, him), lucidly put it a few weeks back, “preconceived notions.”

I don’t want to make this a “yes, but” comment. I really do think Cuban deserves credit for not piling on, but rather trying to think about his own culpability in a larger set of cultural attitudes that we all wrestle with, each in our own way. We could use more of that.

I did, however (a dodgy way of saying “but”) find Tom Ziller’s comments yesterday to be especially insightful. In a post appropriately titled “Mark Cuban is complicated,”Ziller recounted an episode during the 2009 playoffs when, following a Mavericks loss to the Nuggets, Cuban told Kenyon Martin’s mother that her son was a “thug” (or a “punk”).

Ziller writes:

He later apologized to K-Mart’s mother. In the heat of frustration, he didn’t approach (white) Nuggets coach George Karl to complain about the Nuggets’ roughness. He went at Martin, a tatted up black player. And he either called him a punk or agreed with a fan who called him a thug. To Martin’s mom’s face. And we all know what people really mean when they call someone a “thug” or a “punk,” or at least what the connotation is perceived to be by targets of the language.

Again, Cuban apologized, and this happened five years ago. But forgive me for being skeptical about Cuban’s claim that he’s an equal opportunity bigot. Forgive me if I see Cuban’s position — that everyone is bigoted, and that you can’t legislate stupidity — as a coded defense of white privilege to be racist. I’m not saying that Cuban is racist — not at all. But when you argue that there should not be meaningful consequences for blatant racism, you are in essence defending white privilege. That’s problematic.

I am not inside Cuban’s head, so I don’t know what he’s thinking. I take him to be earnestly wrestling with these issues. I agree with Ziller about one arguable *effect* of Cuban’s comments. I would also say, though, that being “problematic” is probably the best we can hope for in this context – especially those of us on the privileged side of white privilege – so long as we’re trying to get better. The alternative is not being a saint, which I take to be beyond human capacity. It’s being a simpleton.


One comment

  1. Cuban did not say that Sterling should not be punished, as Tom Ziller implied. He was just a little hesitant to throw the first stone since he knew that he, like most people, isn’t free from flaws. Maybe his flaws aren’t the same as Sterlings (who is racist), but seeing as how the NBA is not an appointed justice system, it seems to go beyond their role to begin acting as judge, jury, and executioner. What happens the next time an owner does or says something the players don’t like, racist or not?

    Not only that, but since Sterling’s comments were made in private, where do we draw the line on legal action taken against a person? If someone taped everyone’s private conversations, I’m sure we would all be embarrassed by one thing or another. Not to mention the hypocrisy being demonstrated by people who just weeks ago were fighting for their privacy against the government.

    What irks me is that everyone KNEW Sterling was like this and they have known for years. Chris Paul knew Sterling’s nature when he was a free agent, but he decided to re-sign with the Clippers anyway. What does that say about Chris Paul? Now he’s the victim? No, he had a chance to live by his principles. When things are public, it’s much easier to “do the right thing”. But what about when these things weren’t on everyone’s mind? What decision did he make?

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