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  • Victor C. Bolles

Social Justice Basketball

I am currently reading Thomas Sowell’s book, The Quest for Cosmic Justice. In essence, Doctor Sowell asserts that constitutional rights (also known as liberties) and cosmic justice (sort of what we know as social justice but on an even grander scale) are mutually exclusive and like matter and antimatter cannot coexist. That is because an increase in constitutional rights can only occur as a result of a reduction in government power while an increase in social justice (also known as positive rights or entitlements) requires an increase in government power (which, ipso facto, means a reduction in constitutional rights).

Although I am still reading the book and will discuss it in more detail in a later commentary, it has led me into an interesting speculation about social justice.

Imagine that we applied social justice principles to the NBA. The NBA is one of the ultimate meritocratic organizations in the country, but the players do not “look like America,” as is the professed desire of most social justice warriors who demand that the employees in any profession or organization represent all the different identifies that make up what we call America. Blacks make up 12.6% of the US population but make up 74.4% of the NBA. To make the NBA look more like America you would have to limit the number blacks and increase the number of white men as well as Hispanic men and Asian men.

But I am afraid that would not be sufficient to meet our new social justice standards. Those big identities are too broad to be effective. We must make sure that all identities are included. Although the San Antonio Spurs have done a good job of making sure that Hispanics, Frenchmen and Eastern Europeans are represented, other teams need to do more. And Asian men in the NBA only make up 0.2% of the players but Asians are now about 5.0% of the US population. Not only do we need to make sure that we have more Asian men, we must also make sure that Vietnamese men, Chinese men, Japanese men and other Asians are also proportionately represented.

Unfortunately, this still does not do the job. The black men in the NBA are all very tall as are the few white men and Asian men in the NBA. Only a bit more than one percent of men in the United States are over six foot three inches tall. But most NBA players are considerably taller than that. We need to make accommodation for short men and, while we are at, we need to make accommodation for fat men as well.

But wait a minute! About half of the people in America are women and we haven’t started to include them on our social justice NBA teams. It is true that women have their own league, the WNBA. But we got rid of separate but equal a long time ago and besides, the pay in the WNBA sucks. So, in order to right the wrongs suffered by women, they need to be included in the NBA as well.

I hate to say it but we have run into another problem in our quest for social justice. Does a transgender woman count on the male quota or the female quota? Besides, I get confused. Is a transgender woman a person who was a genetic male at birth but believes herself to be a woman or is it the other way ‘round? And would the other women be upset at transgenders eating up their quota. How illiberal of them.

Which brings us to another question. How do we account for intersectionality? Many Americans are made up of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. President Obama was known as America’s first black president, but he was only half black. His mother was white. So if he was to play social justice basketball would he be counted as black or would he count against both quotas. A short fat Asian man would be a three banger for intersectionality.

To solve this problem, each player in the social justice NBA would have to take a DNA test in order to determine his genetic background, which might include many countries and ethnicities. And black Americans would have to be tested as well because we would not want a particular tribe such as the Tutsi (known for being very tall) to be overrepresented. That was certainly the case for our bank in Nigeria. The process of Nigerianization – replacing foreign workers with Nigerian citizens - required that every tribe in the country be properly represented.

The refs would be in charge of making sure that every player had his or her genetic test and would determine the intersectional boxes that applied. This will be essential to determining the exact percentage of each group so that when it is added up it all comes out right. Rosters may have to be expanded as well to accommodate all the possible identities.

Okay, we have almost completed our roster of players. All we have to do now is throw in a couple of other identities such as homosexuals and lesbians, people with physical disabilities and anybody else who raises their hand and claims to have been subjected to discrimination.

Okay, now we are ready to play a game. Of course, we not only need to have rosters that “look like America”, the play on the court must also “look like America.” The refs will be in charge of allocating court time among all the identities on the teams. And since each person will have equal time on the basketball court, everyone will be paid the same.

Ahhhh. The joys of social justice basketball. Only a couple of problems remain. If one of our teams was beating their opponents too badly, the refs would be empowered to give extra points to the losing team so that they would not fall prey to low self-esteem. The only thing left would be to force the general population to buy tickets to the game so that the players would feel inspired by the crowds that came out to watch some truly bad basketball.

And if you think social justice is bad for basketball, just think what it will do to the economy.


Of course, America is not the NBA. American citizens come in many different shapes, sizes and colors and many suffered from discrimination in the past. Although some say that many Americans still suffer from racism and discrimination, I believe that the country has made a lot of progress both legally and culturally. But as our progressive Democratic candidates for president remind us, there is still work to do. But mandating outcomes like in social justice basketball is not the solution. We need to focus on the inputs and the rules of the game in order to give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed.

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