While the NBA world deservedly bashes ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols for her remarks on diversity, there should be a moment for all fans, the Houston Rockets included, to collectively reflect on what they can do better to promote diversity in the sport of basketball.
Nichols’ comments, lamenting ESPN’s elevation of Maria Taylor, a woman of color, at what she believed was her expense and to fulfill a diversity quota at ESPN rightly struck a nerve with people around the NBA. Not only were the comments abhorrent but they follow the age-old sentiment of white Americans praising diversity as long as it doesn’t affect them in the slightest.
For there to be true racial equality in the United States, not only does diversity need to be promoted but white privilege needs to be relented. Rachel Nichols failed to realize this and she is paying the price for that, but, hopefully, she can learn from this mistake and become a real ally for diversity, not just a superficial one.
As enticing as it is in this moment to lambast, tar, and feather Nichols, that alone is hardly a productive endeavor. The question every Houston Rockets fan should be asking themselves is, how can I promote and be an ally to diversity?
For Houston Rockets fans, an easy place to start is to examine the troubling poll finding that saw Rockets’ fans rank dead last in their support of their franchise hiring a female head coach. The poll found that only 79.5-percent of Rockets fans would support the hiring of a female head coach, which is a whopping 10.5-percent worse than the second-lowest mark of 90-percent.
While the vast majority of Rockets fans support the idea, it remains a troubling indication that diversity is not at the top of Rockets fans’ minds. Part of what led to Nichols’ outburst was her feeling that she had had to work twice as hard to reach the heights she had because she was a woman.
When people feel marginalized they often become protective of their status and less open to diversity if it threatens what they feel has been earned. If the Rockets were to hire a female coach and it caused parts of the fanbase to direct unwarranted vitriol towards her, what type of effect would that have?
Would she constantly feel pressure to hold on to her job? Would every new coach be viewed as a threat? Perhaps she’d rise above all of that, but it would by no means be easy. Now, if the fanbase was wholeheartedly supportive of her, it becomes more likely that she would want to continue to promote diversity throughout the organization.
Rachel Nichols will continue to be ostracised for years to come. This is a stain on her legacy that will never come out. But instead of joining in on the mob shaming, Rockets fans should take this moment to reflect on what they can do better to promote diversity because that’s how real change can occur.