While Black America was dealing with everything that comes along with knowing that there’s nothing we can do to stop the police from killing us and getting away with it, there was another story involving rampant racism that flew under the radar on Friday.
Gedvydas Vainauskas is the president of the Lithuanian basketball team BC Lietuvos Rytas, and believes that too many Black players on his team are a problem, because it can lead to gangs.
“We’ve always held a stance that there shouldn’t be more than two black players on the team. What happened was that coach Tomas Pacesas likes to play with black players – to control them, to teach them, to tutor them – and we ended up with four players that are black. All of a sudden, they came together to form…how should I put it…a sort of a gang. It cannot be that way; no more than two black players – I can say that from my 23 years of experience in the business. Teams, don’t ever have more than two black players … (smiles) Because that’s when bad things start to take place.”
Vainauskas is the Donald Sterling of the European Basketball League. Back in 2014, Sterling became a household name when TMZ released audio of the former Los Angeles Clippers owner making racist comments to his girlfriend about bringing Black people to games.
“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want,” he said. “The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”
Vainauskas tried to apologize and clarify his “comments,” but similar to Sterling, it only made things worse.
“While talking about the lessons learned during the last season, I had in my mind the situation with foreign players. The principal position of BC Lietuvos Rytas is that a basketball player first of all is a professional. Unfortunately, a few our foreigners did not meet expectations of the club. During the playoffs they acted irresponsibly and that had a great negative impact on our team’s performance. In my interview, I expressed my disappointment about some of the foreign players selected for the season. I apologize, if I was improperly understood.”
That’s not an apology, it’s a further indictment of what Vainauskas really thinks about “foreigners.”
Situations like this aren’t new, and the idea that team ownerships can at times view their players, of all races, as anything other than acquired assets, instead of humans, isn’t either.
But in just nine words, Vainauskas showed us what he really thinks of Black players.
“To control them, to teach them, to tutor them.”
Slaves used to be referred to as chattel, or even worse, three-fifths of a person.
You control, teach, and tutor pets, not Black men.
BC Lietuvos Rytas isn’t some random European Basketball team either. In fact, they’re one of the most successful teams in Lithuania. Former Black collegiate stars like Kareem Rush, Hollis Price, D.J. Strawberry, Tyrese Rice, and Omar Cook have all suited up for the organization, and at one point were vital to the team’s success. The country has also produced a large number of college basketball players, as well as more well-known NBA players over the years like Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Far too many times men like Vainauskas are in positions of power. Which is why he needs to be stripped of it.
The European Basketball League released a statement on the incident and implied that discipline will occur.
“European basketball has always been and will continue being an example of integration on and off the court, where cultures, races and religions have always come together under one passion, the sport of basketball. It is precisely these many cultures, languages, races and ways of understanding and living the sport which makes it a unique and enriching experience as well as a tool for bringing people together, people who have made history with some of the greatest performances in European basketball. The views expressed by Mr. Vainauskas are deeply offensive, harmful, and contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect.
“A disciplinary proceeding has been opened by Euroleague Basketball against the Club, while it will be proposed at the upcoming 7DAYS EuroCup General Assembly that Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius ceases to represent EuroCup clubs at the Board of the competition.”
A “disciplinary proceeding” isn’t enough. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did what he needed to do by getting rid of Sterling, but this incident is the second time something like this has occurred in professional basketball and twice isn’t a fluke.
The Euroleague, as well as the NBA, need to make sure this situation doesn’t happen for the third time.
Because if Friday taught us anything, it’s that in 2017, Black men still can’t get justice, whether it be for their lives, or on a basketball court.