Earl “The Pearl” Monroe famously lost interest in the Pacers back in their ABA days after he visited the locker room and saw all the African-American players had guns on them. “They got the Ku Klux Klan everywhere around here,” they told him. “The Pearl” was out.
In 1981, Patrick Ewing was selecting a college to play for. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Ewing grew up in Cambridge, Massachusets. He was such a force on the court the team got national attention as Patrick was considered to be one of the best recruits in the country.
Boston is considered to be an amazing sports town. Their fans have high expectations and a lot of passion – a passion that too often showed it’s ugly face. Bill Russell famously called Boston “a flea market of racism” and accepted a retirement jersey in Boston under the condition no fans be present at the ceremony.
Ewing had similar experiences. As he was the best player on a dominant team, he would be the target of opposition fan attention, and it would often include racially fueled taunts. It didn’t stop at taunts – on one occasion their bus was rocked by opposing fans.
Despite all that, people in Massachusets expected Ewing to decide to go to Boston College or Boston University. When he said he was going to Georgetown, all the fans left the room. Let’s just say Boston wasn’t (isn’t) very self-conscious about their treatment of athletes.
Ewing was very close to signing for Dean Smith and UNC, which would mean he would team up with Michael Jordan. Once again, The Klan got in the way. While visiting North Carolina, Ewing witnessed a rally for the Ku Klux Klan.
It shouldn’t be surprising given recent US history, but it’s still shocking that the KKK had public rallies that were obviously fine. Their negative impact is a subject for a different blog; we will stay in the realm of basketball.
We can just focus on the fact we were close to seeing possibly the most dominant NCAA duo of all times. Young, raw MJ and Ewing would’ve provided tremendous basketball.
Another frustrating “what if” for the history books.