Guest Blogger: Why the NBA is not the WNBA

A guest post by a good friend of mine.

. . .

by: Czander Tan

With another NBA Championship on the line, this past weekend has been an interesting one for Stephen Curry. What has been making more headlines, however, bringing attention to tendencies of the sports enterprise and its culture, is the controversy surrounding the tweets of his wife, Ayesha Curry. To make a long story short, after the Warriors lost game 6 of the NBA finals, she tweeted that the game was rigged, implying that the Warriors lost so that game 7 would happen and enable the sports industry to make more money. To be sure, Ayesha is certainly not the first person to decry capitalist industries for doing whatever they can to make another buck – we all at least half-joke about it. Whether or not she was serious (or correct) does not matter so much, in this case, as the outraged responses to her tweet. Many tweeters immediately called her out for sharing her opinion, with tweets like “Somebody please tell Ayesha Curry to sit down and be quiet!” (@FrankMBrownJr) and “KITCHEN FINGERS TURN TO TWITTER FINGERS” (@REALFORTES). Perhaps the most controversial comment came from sports commentator Stephen A. Smith, who compared Ayesha to Savannah James, LeBron James’ wife, implying, along with many other male supporters, that Ayesha should learn to be more like Savannah, sitting quiet and not bringing “any attention to herself” (Smith). He prefaced the criticism by calling her “adorable,” patronizing in its own right, saying that she has “an incredibly promising future but you just can’t do that…” (Smith), before attributing what he presumably thinks are ‘better’ womanly qualities in Savannah.

First of all, I do not know any of these people, and so to criticize any one of them personally would bear little credibility on my part. To be honest, I am not even that big of a sports fan, probably only watching the NBA finals, the Olympics, the World Cup, and the Superbowl (but really just for the commercials). So perhaps I might be speaking out of my league, not fully understanding the norms of sports culture. However, Steven A. Smith’s comments especially bring to light an issue that everyone might believe is eradicated in the contemporary 21st century, which honestly makes it even more dangerous. Who gets to determine the right way to be a woman? Social media sports fans? Male social media sports fans? Writers and critics who prophesize with their pen? Freaking Stephen A. Smith?

To be fair, there are certain implications when comments such as Ayesha’s are made, especially when closely affiliated with the NBA. Rules and regulations make sense to keep some level of order and respect in corporations that are so economical and public. For example, Curry was fined $25,000 for throwing his mouthpiece before being ejected in game 6, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr was fined the same amount for publicly criticizing foul calls made by the referees. But who are we to put a bounty on Ayesha’s opinion? There was a time when disagreement with certain institutions probably got you a visit from the Gestapo in the middle of the night. I did not know that tweets could earn one a late-night visit from the friendly twitterhood misogyny. I did not know that emotions could be told to shut up and get back to the kitchen. But perhaps it is because I do not know what it is to be a woman.

*gasp* Really? You mean you can’t mansplain how a woman should be?

This issue isn’t just limited to the realm of sports, as Jennifer Lawrence and other actresses have brought up in the film industry. That is, if a man shows aggression (like Stephen Curry and LeBron James did) for, say, a pay raise or a disagreement with a corporation, that is seen as drive, ambition, and passion. But if a woman does the same, she is called out for being ungrateful, whiny, and bitchy.

Certainly, it does not help Stephen Curry any to have more pressure going into the championship game. I am not saying that there is no responsibility involved when affiliated with such high monetary or public stakes, and I do not presume to even be able to imagine what it must be like to have all the pressures of celebrity. What I do want to point out, however, is that the responses against Ayesha reveal a much deeper issue with our culture. And what is even more disappointing to me is her own husband’s response.

Again, I do not want to be presumptuous in my criticism. Their relationship is their own business, and I certainly want to respect the private lives of celebrities. But even joking about having to “cut the WiFi off” might bear some insensitivity in the surrounding context. I am not criticizing Stephen Curry as a person – I am a big fan of his. I’m just saying that might not have been the smartest comment to make. Even though it might ease the thousands of dollars in fines lost by the Warriors due to the drama of game 6, what kind of price tag might be put on a relationship?

It is well known that Stephen and Ayesha Curry are professed Christians, both having “Believer” as the very first word in their twitter profile descriptions. If it weren’t for this, I might continue to rant about systemic and institutional sexism, which is still an extremely important issue, as I have shared above. But I wanted to shift lenses and discuss the possible influences that might factor into this debacle, namely that of Christian culture and representation.

As a Christian myself, I am always disappointed when Christians publicly portray themselves as morally superior and self-righteous, somehow having the right to judge anyone for behavior that they are capable of themselves. How I wish I could share, in those instances, that if the gospel has taught me anything, it is that I am not morally superior and that I am not righteous at all. Not one bit.

I am not trying to point fingers and say that so-and-so is not doing such-and-such the right way – that would be quite hypocritical of me. However, I wanted to reflect and continue the discussion about male privilege in light of the Christian culture. To be sure, Christianity has been known to have misogynistic tendencies, usually having been justified by the ‘natural created order.’ But in my experience, the seeking and understanding of this knowledge usually has for its purpose the comfort of certainty.

Just as the NBA has rules and regulations to keep a level of accountability in its institution, so does the Church. One might argue, on the other hand, that rules and regulations in the NBA are there just so the NBA is not liable for misconduct, and is able to pinpoint the consequence for such misconduct (i.e. unprofessional attitude (e.g. throwing mouthpiece and accidentally hitting a member of the audience) = $25,000) – this allows for member of the NBA to be comfortable in knowing where they stand and what they are allowed to do/not do. This extends not only to corporations but also citizenship.
Similarly, in the Church, norms sometimes seem enculturated with a sense of certainty just so its members can find comfort. That is, I am going to interpret and understand what it is I am supposed to do/not do so I can be comfortable – I want to be careful in saying that this is not always the case, but I find myself self-justifying my own actions like this all the time. For those unacquainted with the normative Western-Christian dating scene, for example, there has developed quite a language and standard that seems almost procedural, with the justification of clear communication so that no one might get hurt (even though being hurt is inevitable in all relationships, and part of growth). There is nothing wrong with it – if this works for you, good! In this case, however, the standard of dating can be pushed so much so that dating becomes based on liability: knowing what to do/not do so either party can be comfortable. But what if comfort isn’t the point? What if the pain of uncertainty is part of the process? What if the point is to do what is difficult and uncomfortable?

To be fair, I like comfort. There is a simplicity to having set expectations to follow. On the other hand, it also makes it so much easier to criticize when someone is acting “out of line” or “out of pocket,” as Stephen A. Smith called Ayesha Curry out for. Perhaps a woman being emotional and speaking up is uncomfortable to some, but invalidating someone’s expression because of our own discomfort reveals our own selfishness more than anything else. I am not questioning whether women should be more like Ayesha or Savannah. I am questioning the “should be” that we seem to impose on each other.

On a brighter note, I am glad there are people like singer-songwriter Syleena Johnson who tweeted: “Turns out @ayeshacurry is Not JUST Steph’s wife but her OWN person who has a right to an opinion like everybody else so hey.”

Turns out we are all humans with so much more potential than we give each other credit for so hey.

Guest Blogger: Why the NBA is not the WNBA

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