DUDLEY WASN’T A ‘MINORITY’…. In Oregon’s very competitive gubernatorial race, Republicans have rallied behind retired basketball player Chris Dudley, who seems to have a very narrow lead in the polls. As part of his campaign, Dudley has reached out to minority communities in Oregon with a very awkward message.
When Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Dudley addressed the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs’ monthly “Coffee & Issues” breakfast on Sept. 24, he reprised a comment he’d made at an earlier interview with the Urban League of Portland.
“I heard him say he ‘understood what it was like to be a minority because he had played in the NBA,” recalls state Rep. Lew Frederick (D-Portland), the only African-American man in the Oregon Legislature. (Frederick’s business partner, former Portland Public Schools board member Sue Hagmeier, recalls Dudley’s comments similarly.)
(The Portland Observer reported the exchange this way: “[Dudley] was also asked by Sam Brooks, chair of OAME’s board and moderator of the forum, what Dudley had done in the past and would do as governor for minority and women-owned businesses in the state. ‘I was a minority for 16 years,’ said Dudley to laughter, referring to his time in the NBA, which is dominated by African Americans.” Brooks and OAME President Jorge Guerra did not return WW’s calls seeking comment.)
The question is not just one of hearsay — a Dudley spokesperson confirms the candidate made the comment, but argued it was intended to be light-hearted.
And perhaps it was; I haven’t seen or heard the context. But the fact that Dudley has repeated the line to different audiences suggests he thinks it has at least some merit.
It doesn’t. Dudley may have been a minority on some NBA teams in the literal sense — a majority of his teammates were of a different race — but he was an extremely well-paid athlete working alongside other extremely well-paid athletes. His background as a wealthy basketball player in no way relates to the difficulties African Americans have faced throughout American society.
Lew Frederick, the lone African-American man in Oregon’s legislature, said, “Frankly it was stunning that he would say something like that. It shows a lack of sensitivity but also shows you do not understand at all what it’s like to be a minority and that you have a shallow understanding of what that question is being asked…. He has no idea what it’s like to be denied a loan as a minority small businessman, and he’s never had problems getting an equal education. For goodness’ sake, he’s a Yale grad.”
Dudley’s spokesperson insists the Republican “wasn’t seriously making the comparison.” I hope that’s true. But if he could just stop bring the comparison up on the campaign trail, that’d be great.