Wickliffe’s Basketball Drama: Maybe It Ain’t About Race

The basketball hoops are going back up in Wickliffe’s city parks, ending a two-week coup d’etat by an overly wholesome mob of Little League parents and old people who think swearing is “talking evil.” They came down last month, after more than a hundred angry residents piled into a city council meeting to complain about “nonresident” kids crowding the courts. No, they hadn’t committed any crimes, said the residents; but dagnabbit, they talk evil, play their stereos loud, and wear their pants down on their ankles (all, apparently, are low-level felonies in western Lake County). At first blush, it sounds like a clear-cut case of Honky Fever. But we’re not so sure racism started all this. It’s possible that in Wickliffe, they just hate sports what require baggy shorts. At last night’s safety committee meeting, many clung to the asinine notion that these “nonresidents” can be easily identified by their license plates, not the color of their skin. (It’s slightly more convenient than pointing to census data, which says that if you’re black, there’s less than a five percent chance you live in Wickliffe.) They also added to what’s quickly becoming an impressive pack of politically correct euphemisms for race. Before the meeting, Councilman Gordon Levar called officials in at least nine suburbs to learn how they handled the issue. Curiously, none lie anywhere east of the city. “The ‘challenges,’” he said, “are all coming from the west.” Levar even spouted the word “xenophobe.” But the most telling moment of the meeting came as it ended, when a large man, arms and legs were sleeved in tattoos, stood up to speak. He loudly asked the council to answer for a similar matter: its closing the city’s skatepark three years ago after residents complained about noise, bad language and vandalism – virtually the same issues they’ve got with the hoops. But city officials blew him off, mixing into the crowd as it poured out of the tiny meeting room. The man slumped back into his chair, shaking his head. “No one likes the skaters,” he pouted. “That’s okay.” – Jason Nedley

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