Forget racism issue

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

PHOENIX -- Shawn Marion's analysis pinpointed the narrow-mindedness of turning Steve Nash's MVP victory into a racial issue.

"He's Canadian anyway," Marion said. "So what's racial about that?"

Marion, who is black, and Nash, who is white, are teammates with the Phoenix Suns, who defeated the Dallas Mavericks 127-102 in Game 1 of their NBA second-round playoff series last night.

Prior to the opening tip, the 18,422 fans at America West Arena didn't seem to care what colour Nash's skin is. Their cheers could be heard all the way to Canada as NBA commissioner David Stern presented Nash with the MVP trophy.

Stern lauded Nash's "leadership by example," although the pride of Victoria, B.C., wasn't quite at his spectacular apex as he amassed 11 points, 13 assists and six rebounds. Nash must have felt some pressure to have an MVP-type game, but the Suns on the whole were awesome again, with special credit going to Amare Stoudemire (40 points, 16 rebounds), Joe Johnson (25 points) and Marion (23 points, 11 rebounds).

"The offence really got going tonight and we were great defensively in stretches," Nash said. "We have a lot of confidence right now but this is a seven-game series."

Late in the third quarter with Dallas getting blown out, Mavs coach Avery Johnson became so furious with the officials that he stomped on to the court while the play was going on, almost ran into a referee and fell on his butt trying to get out of the way. The whistle blew and Johnson was given a technical foul, then he continued to yell and scream until he was ejected -- he probably was too embarrassed to stick around, anyway.

And speaking of embarrassing things, it seems that some people do care what colour Nash's skin is, primarily because his main rival for MVP honours, Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat, happens to be black.

Dan Le Batard of The Miami Herald wrote a column on Sunday that wondered aloud if Nash winning the MVP over Shaq had something to do with race. Le Batard did not charge anyone with racism, per se, but his theory seemed to be that voters sub-consciously might bring race into it even when they don't know they're doing it.

So what should we do, just get up and kill ourselves?

Racism still exists in many forms. But even hinting that it exists in a specific area with absolutely zero proof cheapens the accusation, which should have bite.

It's a shame we have to do this, but just to be clear: We had a vote and we voted for Nash, with Shaq second on our ballot. Race had nothing to do with it. If Shaq had won, we would have been fine with that.

Nash, who is the first white MVP since Larry Bird won three in a row from 1984-86, seemed stunned when he heard about the controversial column.

"Um ... I didn't know that, but ... I have no idea what to say about that," Nash said yesterday morning. "It's something I think you'd have to look deeper at."

Nash's coach, Mike D'Antoni, was downright disgusted.

"That's kind of old, isn't it?" D'Antoni said. "Isn't that kind of stale? To play that (race card) ... you can do a better job reporting."

Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavs just shook his head.

"I'm not getting into all that," said Nowitzki, a white German who had 28 points and 13 rebounds last night.

Marion couldn't contain his incredulity.

"Steve deserved it -- even Shaq said it," Marion said. "To be honest with you, everything is racial to a certain extent. But it's crazy, man. It's ludicrous."

That bit about everything being racial to a certain extent certainly is true in the United States. Sometimes it's the first thing that pops into the minds of Americans, both black and white. There's racism in Canada, too, but on a day-to-day basis we seem to be more pre-occupied with region and language.

D'Antoni is going to be named the NBA's coach of the year today. There's a good chance Nate McMillan of the Seattle SuperSonics is going to finish second. D'Antoni is white, McMillan is black.

Will that be about racism, too? We voted for McMillan, with D'Antoni second. Does that make us politically correct, or traitors to our race? Will this ever end?

Whatever, the Suns are up a game, Nash has his MVP trophy, and that's all anyone should care about.


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