When riding the subway train yesterday, as I sat down, I noted a young man sitting across from me wearing a New York Knicks cap.  At the same time, I could see my own reflection, as I was wearing a Brooklyn Nets cap.  Liken to one of the titles of a CD released by one of the Nets owners, I thought the dynamic of two basketball teams for NYC are a Gift and a Curse.






THE GIFT:  Back in the day, the Nets were an ABA New York basketball team before they became the NBA New Jersey Nets.  Led by the legendary Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J, I got to go to one of the first games with my dad at the new Brendan Byrne Arena.



The “Brendan Byrne Arena”?  For those who don’t know, the now IZOD Center at the Meadowlands in Seacaucus, New Jersey, opened as the Brendan Byrne Arena.  It was named after one of the state’s former Governors.  Then it became the Continental Arena… now it’s the IZOD Center.  Although places like Madison Square Garden in New York and The Greek in LA have kept their original names, many a venue across this great nation of ours have changed the name of popular venues for the purpose of garnering revenue.  While I wholeheartedly understand the need for money, I think its shameful how certain organizations have bastardized themselves for the sake of a corporate check, but that’s another blog.

The Nets are now back in New York, only this time as the Brooklyn Nets!  Ah the excitement, the thrill, the forthcoming victories!!!  But who’s the victor!  A few folks who bought property in downtown Brooklyn years ago, who became the beneficiaries of millions of dollars from Barclays bank, where the new Barclays Center now stands.  Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is another victor in this situation.  One who’s been very open about selling crack at a young age, he turned his life around through the form of rap music.  “I don’t run rap no more, I run the map,” is a line from “What We Talkin’ About,” featured on his “Blueprint 3” CD.  Carter has gone from clockin’ on the corners of BK to “combin’ through G’s, Please,” around the world.  A “self-made” millionaire, he’s the king of New York and the pride of Marcy projects where he grew up.  One of the owners of the Brooklyn Nets, his fans and supporters can’t wait to see him take the stage of the new arena, which is sure to be an unprecedented event for the ages.  The Brooklyn native is set to do eight shows at the Barclays Center.  The first show is on September 28th, the closer takes place on October 6th.  Billboard magazine has a contest featured on their website to win tickets to the show, along with a Nets ticket package and clothing from his Rocawear brand http://www.billboard.com/column/the-juice/jay-z-marcy-to-barclays-challenge-1007663952.story#/column/the-juice/jay-z-marcy-to-barclays-challenge-1007663952.story  Shows to follow before the first Brooklyn Nets game include that of another New Yorker, Barbra Streisand will do two shows on October 11th and 13th.  After Pre-Season games take place, the band RUSH, R&B crooner John Legend and the Smashing Pumpkins have dates there before basketball season officially starts.  As a Brooklyn resident, I’m looking forward to attending Jay’s show and a game or two.  Bob Dylan is even playing at the venue in November.

Friends and fans of “Jigga” are thrilled for his success and looking forward to the upcoming sets.  For many, his success is reflective of what they can be.  In reality, the percentage of those who admire him attaining his level of fortune, is limited to say the least.  Carter is respected by them, but financially miles apart, as he’s now part of the one percent.  “One is the loneliest number,” and the odds of another Jay-Z coming to pass are slim and none.

THE CURSE: While Barclays was one of the few banks that didn’t benefit from the 2009 bail out, the FSA’s investigation is focused on fees paid by Barclays following the fundraising that helped the UK bank strengthen its balance sheet at the height of the financial crisis.  According to the Independent, the FSA is believed to be working with a number of regulators as part of the inquiry, including the SFO, which has not decided whether to launch its own formal investigation.  The FSA routinely hands information to the SFO when it is conducting investigations.  Barclays were under intense scrutiny in the 1980s for its financial support for South Africa’s racist apartheid regime.  The company legacy was re-evaluated in 2005 when it attempted to purchase one of South Africa’s largest banks, Absa.  Activist groups ‘Jubilee South Africa’ and Khulumani organized large-scale protests and marches against the potential purchase and reminded observers of Barclays’ past support for the apartheid regime.  Many folks in Brooklyn were not happy about the Barclays Center being built downtown, but it’s up.  While I have no doubt that the powers that be strongly professed the new center will provide jobs for people in the community, the benefits of the community are far from their priority.

The following paragraph is taken from www.knowmore.org.  A good summary of world bank’s ethical behavior is provided by Prem Sikka and is worth quoting at length:  “Anyone visiting the websites of banks or browsing through their annual reports will find no shortage of claims of “corporate social responsibility.  “Yet their practices rarely come anywhere near their claims.  In pursuit of higher profits and bumper executive rewards, banks have inflicted both the credit crunch and sub-prime crisis on us.  Their sub-prime activities may also be steeped in fraudulent mis-selling of mortgage securities.  They have developed onshore and offshore structures and practices to engage in insider trading, corruption, sham tax-avoidance transactions and tax evasion.  Money laundering is another money-spinner.  Worldwide over 2-trillion are estimated to be laundered each year.  The laundered amounts fund private armies, terrorism, narcotics, smuggling, corruption, tax evasion and criminal activity and generally threaten quality of life.  Large amounts of money cannot be laundered without the involvement of accountants, lawyers, financial advisers and banks… Banks are not going to voluntarily embrace honesty, integrity or social responsibility.  Without tougher regulation, breaking of the link between profits and executive remuneration and personal penalties on company executives for wrongdoings, there is no chance of banks behaving responsibly.  Politicians are doing little to translate public concern into effective policies.

Politicians and members of Congress have gotten so involved with banks and corporations that decisions and business practices are constantly compromised when it pertains to the American people.  So… The Gift, Mo’ Entertainment!!!  The Curse is the same, in that entertainment is our country’s greatest export and that there are far too many delusional citizens whose primary goal is to be a “Star.”  Although a few may benefit from acquiring a job at the Barclays Center, the reality is that the amount of money the UK bank will take in, far exceeds the benefits that will be afforded to the community in which it stands.


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