An ongoing debate about interracial relationships was renewed in a major way on Tuesday night after a photo posted on Twitter showed players on the NBA’s New York Knicks team with their apparent significant others purportedly at a holiday party thrown by the professional basketball organization.
The photo, posted by the “New York Basketball” Twitter account that is unaffiliated with the Knicks NBA franchise, featured six players with each of them standing behind a woman. The tweet carries a simple caption: “Knicks holiday party last night.”
The tweet quickly went viral, having garnered nearly 22,000 likes as of Wednesday morning with nearly 7,000 other tweets quoting the photo with toxic commentary that spanned the gamut of reactions to the interracial relationships displayed in the image.
At surface value, the tweet was par for the holiday season course that is typically replete with such gatherings in the workplace where spouses and significant others are invited to join in the seasonal corporate festivities.
But, since we’re talking about Twitter, the land of the unregulated and spiraling madness that can and typically does enable unwarranted criticism and much worse, things quickly took a dark turn, no pun intended.
The comments to the photo exploded with both defensive and hateful reactions to seeing the imagery of multiple interracial relationships.
Variations of the multitude of Dr. Umar Johnson memes expressing disapproval with seeing wealthy Black professional athletes alongside white women populated much of the comments reacting to the photo, in classic Twitter fashion.
One tweet suggested in response to the photo there should be “Lashes for the NY starting lineup,” playing on Johnson’s rhetorical punishment for people he identifies as race traitors.
Another featured a photoshopped image of a KKK hat made from Kente cloth that asked, “TF going on??”
One tweet asked, “Where’s the sistas??”
The person who posted that last question apparently didn’t look closely enough at the photo to see Knicks reserve forward Svi Mykhailiuk, who was accompanied by a Black woman. The white, Ukrainian-born player was the only person in the photo to be shown standing behind a Black woman.
Ironically, even though tweets were criticizing the Black players for the white women they were with, the fact that Mykhailiuk was with a Black woman prompted a number of comments applauding his personal decision.
It was classic double-standard Twitter.
“S/O too the white dude on the team that got him a melanin queen this ratio is nasty work ! I’m disappointed being a Knicks fan even more now,” one tweet said.
Another tweet posted a photo that cropped out the other players and their dates to focus only on Mykhailiuk, who the Twitter user simply dubbed, “MVP.” That tweet got nearly 11,000 likes.
A few tweets tried to be rational about the photo and the comments criticizing the players.
“Blk athletes represent like 2% of blk population so just keep that in mind as they over inflate to pretend 3 guys on the knicks represent all blk society,” one tweet said.
“Lol black men the only race of men that get hate for dating out there [sic] race but it’s praised when the women do it lol,” another tweet said, pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of the criticism about interracial relationships.
What many of the comments overlooked is the fact that two of the Black players featured — point guard Jalen Bruson and forward Obi Toppin — are biracial themselves, a circumstance that may have helped them formulate positive opinions about interracial relationships that are polar opposites of those from Dr. Umar and the like.
There has long been a stigma about interracial relationships in the Black community, especially toward those who are more affluent with higher levels of wealth dating outside of their race. However, according to data from Pew Research Center, “non-Hispanic whites married to Hispanics” are the most prevalent example of interracial marriages in the U.S., suggesting the stereotypes around Black people in interracial marriages are overblown and based on perception and not reality.
But a closer look at the statistics reveals that more Black people have been marrying white people in recent years.
“Overall increases in intermarriage have been fueled in part by rising intermarriage rates among black newlyweds and among white newlyweds,” Pew wrote in research published in 2017. “The share of recently married blacks with a spouse of a different race or ethnicity has more than tripled, from 5% in 1980 to 18% in 2015. Among recently married whites, rates have more than doubled, from 4% up to 11%.”
To be sure, approval for interracial marriages in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 94% last year, according to Gallup data from a polling question it first asked in 1958 when approval was at just 4%.
“Shifts in the 63-year-old trend represent one of the largest transformations in public opinion in Gallup’s history — beginning at a time when interracial marriage was nearly universally opposed and continuing to its nearly universal approval today,” Gallup wrote about last year’s findings.
There does not appear to be any specific data about interracial relationships and marriages as they relate to professional athletes, in particular.
The Twitter debate about the Knicks and interracial relationships broke out hours after President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which ensures federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages.
“We celebrate the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act as a major victory for equality in America,” the NAACP said in a statement emailed to NewsOne after the Respect for Marriage Act was signed into law.
This is America.
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