Critics accuse Bulls, White Sox owner of racism. Here’s why they are wrong.

April 12, 2020

When the Chicago Bulls hired Lithuanian-born Arturas Karnisovas to replace John Paxson as the franchise’s executive vice president of basketball operations, it was a move applauded by NBA analysts and personnel alike. A shrewd, stoic man, Karnisovas is credited with rejuvenating a previously-dormant Denver Nuggets franchise absent the major-market appeal of Chicago, Los Angeles or New York.

However, a lack of black candidates in the Bulls’ interview pool drew the ire of some basketball commentators, prompting critics to declare the Bulls hiring process as racially exclusionary.

Needless to say, such claims are rooted in ignorance. 

Fans of both Chicago baseball and basketball know that Bulls team owner Jerry Reinsdorf also owns the Chicago White Sox. In his role as White Sox owner, Reinsdorf employs and vehemently endorses former general manager and current executive vice president Kenny Williams, a black American executive entering his 28th year with the White Sox. 

Reinsdorf’s unwavering loyalty to Williams has been commendable, if misguided, at times. As Sox fans called for Williams’ firing after a slew of erroneous free agent signings led to a torturous period of mediocrity, Reinsdorf erected a steadfast defense in front of Williams, further evidence of the oft-maligned loyalty he awards his subordinates. 

Those hurling accusations of racism at the Reinsdorf family also overlook the White Sox managerial history.

Between 1998 and 2003, Reinsdorf employed Jerry Manuel, a black baseball manager with 1,388 MLB games under his belt. In 2004, Venezuelan-born skipper Ozzie Guillen assumed managerial duties. Under Guillen, the Sox won their first World Series title in 88 years.

In 2017, the White Sox hired Mexican-American manager Rick Renteria to replace Robin Ventura. Renteria, who remains employed entering the 2020 MLB season, owns a managerial record of 201-284. Under Renteria’s leadership, the Sox never finished better than 28-½ games behind first place.

Anyone who works for a Reinsdorf understands that not having inclusivity and diversity isn’t an option,” said Williams. “Their hiring practices always give everyone an opportunity to prove their merit.” 

Despite the Reinsdorf family’s history of hiring minority candidates to critical positions, lazy commentators still level the Reinsdorf family with irresponsible accusations of racism. On April 9, chief political analyst at ABC News Matthew Dowd took to Twitter to call the Reinsdorf family “tone deaf” and “inappropriate” for assembling four white candidates–Thunder executive Troy Weaver declined an interview, according to ESPN senior writer Marc J. Spears–to head the franchise’s basketball operations.

“In a league (NBA) that is 75% black, the Chicago Bulls did not interview a single black candidate or the open general manager position,” tweeted Dowd. “How tone deaf and inappropriate can folks be.”

Dowd didn’t bother amending his tweet once it was revealed that the Bulls hired Karnisovas to serve as VP of basketball options rather than general manager. Dowd also abandoned the topic after the Bulls hired J.J. Polk as assistant general manager. 

In response to the premature accusations of organizational racism aimed at the Bulls organization, Michael Reinsdorf detailed how important diversity and inclusion are to the Reinsdorf family. 

“To have the Chicago Bulls put in the light that we are a racist organization, it hurts,” Reinsdorf told Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson. “Diversity is incredibly important to me. It’s incredibly important to our organization.”

The accusations directed at the Reinsdorf family and the Bulls organization as a whole represent a disheartening pattern of accusations before reflection and research. A quick google search would have uncovered the Reinsdorfs’ history of racial inclusion.

And while institutional racism is a topic worth exploring and condemning–it’s hard to forget former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist outburst– it’s indolent accusations like these that diminish sincere accusations of racism, racialism and intolerance.

Perhaps even more dispiriting is that, when confronted with Reinsdorf’s record of hiring minority candidates, detractors sidestepped logic, determined to remain willfully ignorant for the sake of wrongly demeaning a family that not only employs minority men and women, but adopts them into the very fabric of the family-owned franchises.

Needless to say, both the Reinsdorfs and the Chicago Bulls deserve an apology.  


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    James RobertsApr 13, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    I have known Jerry since 1972 for anyone to accuse him of racism is to display ignorance of the first order. If you want to criticize him for being too loyal to others that is true, but I’ve always marked that down to kindness and concern along with a huge ability to forgive.