Monday, January 16, 2006
The Kings (Martin Luther & Albert) highlighted in Ratner-sponsored Brooklyn hoops tourney
In Brooklyn, attendance was light as Long Island University hosted the Seventh Annual Brooklyn Basketball Challenge, a three-game event sponsored by Forest City Ratner. The program, using smaller type than that used to highlight the sponsorship, reminded us that the event was "In Celebration of the Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
Despite some local teams and at least one excellent game, I'd estimate that about 60 people were in the bleachers for the second game (Brooklyn's Canarsie blew out Long Island's Valley Stream) and maybe double that for the hard-fought third game, featuring two schools from adjacent Fort Greene, Benjamin Banneker and Bishop Loughlin. (I missed the first game.)
It was also an opportunity for Forest City Ratner to promote its connection to basketball. Programs and a banner featured the company's name, and all attendees were given keychains that said "Brooklyn" on one side and "Nets" on the other. Former NBA player Albert King, who grew up in Fort Greene, was on hand to present trophies to winning teams and MVPs.
Albert King, though a Net for six years, was not as successful a hoopster as his older brother Bernard, a three-year Net and four-time All-Star, who initially was a key part of the Atlantic Yards promotion. Then again, Albert doesn't have Bernard's baggage, as the latter was dropped by Forest City Ratner as a spokesman after he was accused of beating his wife. (He avoided jail time and battery charges by agreeing to counseling.)
From what I can tell, Forest City Ratner also sponsored the 2005 version of the Basketball Challenge, but did not do so previously. The real estate developer had no real interest in basketball, understandably, before announcing the Atlantic Yards project in December 2003. For more on the company's efforts regarding amateur basketball in Brooklyn, see the 11/26/05 Daily News story headlined Jump ball: Brooklyn groups still up in air over Ratner proposal.
So expect some photos and articles about this event in Forest City Ratner promotional materials--maybe even the next edition of the Brooklyn Standard. Proceeds from the event benefit the youth development programs of Youth America, which operates educational, cultural, recreational, and health programs, and the Right Bounce, which helps student athletes seeking college scholarships. Note that Youth America has its office in Forest City Ratner's MetroTech complex; such nonprofits likely get a break on rent.
There were few references to the man ostensibly honored by the event beyond the text in the program program, which reminded us that "Dr. King gave his life for the principles he believed in: peace, dignity, and equal opportunity." (Then again, I did miss the first game.)
At one point, though, a public address announcer encouraged all attendees to go home and read something about the martyred civil rights hero. I took a look at his 1967 "Beyond Vietnam" speech:
"I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."
Now I'm not going to debate the costs and morality of the war in Iraq. But I will say this: Absent the issues of terrorism and war, this country would much more likely have begun serious discussions about poverty, and the best ways to create jobs and affordable housing for those not sharing in the country's prosperity.