Shutdowns and lockouts: disturbing signs in government and sports

People didn’t think it would happen again after happening just six years ago: elected Minnesota officials shutting the government down, making the Land of 10,000 Lakes the Land of 23,000 Layoffs.

This sets up long-term devastating consequences for those laid off and for our fractured Minnesota economy, as the ripple effect begins to engulf our state. A middle ground must be found that doesn’t harm the lower and middle classes, but also doesn’t kill the geese that lay the golden eggs. The task: to get two sides to come together as one state.

We’ll leave it to historians to explain why the Republicans (acting as if it’s the 1950s) and the DFLers (acting as if it’s the 1960s) are ignoring solutions for 21st century citizens caught in their crossfire.

In the eight years under Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota slid into debt. It is now $5.1 billion. But “we” didn’t incur it: The “collective” of the bigs did it (big government, big legislatures, big foundations).

Under Republican Governor Pawlenty, the DFL controlled the legislature. Under now DFL Governor Dayton, the Republicans control the legislature. So there is plenty of blame to share. Needed now is a solution to share.

In the past week, former governor Arne Carlson (Republican) and former vice president Walter Mondale (Democrat) talked about a committee of reconciliation bringing the two sides back to the table together. They will find helpful my reconciliation suggestions in each of my year-end columns since 2003.

Those same columns also address the elephant in the reconciliation room whose name people try to avoid stating: race.

The walkout/lockouts in the National Football League (NFL, annual revenues of $9.3 billion) and the National Basketball Association (NBA, annual revenues of $3.9 billion) are also shutdowns, even though the salaries are greater than those of John and Jane Q. Public. With the NFL and NBA, it is between big ownership that makes money through their entire ownership years vs. individual players who have a short shelf life of earnings as players.

Nonetheless, as with the state government shutdown, the same equally disturbing elephant is in their rooms: race.

The discussions call for fairness and justice for all involved, not just my side vs. your side. But the elephant constrains. Race. And racism. The NBA owners were greatly offended by the negotiation last summer of the Miami Heat’s Black Big 3, as they displayed their resentment toward LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for apparently not knowing their place. We have seen that in the NFL as well.

Our legislature is often like the sports leagues: It generates lots of money while pretending not to have enough. (The NBA alleges that 80 percent of their teams lost money this past season; anyone see their books?)

As for the NFL, no other professional sport on the planet is as profitable and popular. The elephant points out that the NFL ownership groups are all-White while 62 percent of the players are Black.

The NBA is 80 percent Black while most of the great White hopes are from outside the United States. And although Michael Jordan allegedly has a majority ownership in the Charlotte franchise of the NBA, that has not yet been confirmed for the record.

Denying the elephant exists means the reconcilers will be like the six blind men describing an elephant based on the parts they touch.

The longer the shutdown, the greater economic pain for Minnesotans. As neither liberal government nor conservative government is working, a middle-ground solution to the cut/raise taxes and spending issues has to be the end point for two sides that must become as one.

The whispering is that in these difficult times in America, athletes and citizens must understand their place, that prosperity and wealth cannot be for everyone. In other words, the whispering is that Black players and citizens in our minority communities are resisting accepting a plantation mentality.

Black men helped make the NFL the popular and profitable enterprise it is today. But many White owners and far too many fans feel that Black athletes, by virtue of their success, have overstepped their place on the athletic plantation.

Those in charge of the shutdowns are telling people to tighten their belts and put the life of leisure and luxury on hold. I have long held that that is contrary to the great American Dream. But when the issue is race, it’s business as usual.

Stay tuned.

Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5:00 – 6:00 pm; hosts “Black Focus” on Blog Talk radio, Sundays at 3:00 pm; and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 4:00 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers for community planning and development, and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.