- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2003

Hide the bong.

Rasheed Wallace is a number of tokes over the line in an otherworldly interview with the Oregonian.

It seems Wallace has joined the growing cadre of conspiracy theorists in America, many of whom are haunted by the man on the grassy knoll, the one-armed man, “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” and the bogeyman.

In Wallace’s sinister world, “the man” is perpetrating a social horror that almost defies detection.

Wallace, in knowing the real purpose of the NBA, has the inner strength not to be silenced by the game’s tempting lifestyle.

No justice, no peace.

Wallace claims the NBA’s white establishment, starting with commissioner David Stern, is exploiting young black athletes for monetary gain.

To facilitate this evil venture, according to Wallace, the NBA is drafting more and more high school players because of their lack of intellect.

No athlete just out of high school can be as savvy as the 29-year-old Wallace, who spent two seasons in Dean Smith’s classroom.

“I’m not like a whole bunch of these young boys out here who get caught up and captivated into the league,” Wallace told the Portland, Ore., newspaper. “No, I see behind the lines. I see behind the false screens. I know what this business is all about. I know the commissioner of this league makes more than three-quarters of the players in this league.”

You can tell Wallace has researched the issue thoroughly and given it considerable thought.

Stern is white, after all, the NBA is predominantly black, and someone is becoming awfully wealthy at the expense of LeBron James and those before him.

“I’m not scared of the NBA,” Wallace said, no small declaration, given the explosive details of his undercover investigation.

The NBA has a long history of employing Gestapo-like measures against its oppressed labor force.

A couple of gun-toting suits from Stern’s office probably have knocked on the door to Wallace’s home in the last 24 hours, carrying the sort of equipment that is designed to help a person get in touch with his inner crybaby.

“Is it safe?” Laurence Olivier’s dental-obsessed character asked the “Marathon Man,” while extracting a cavity-free tooth from the mouth of Dustin Hoffman’s character.

So is it safe, Rasheed?

To be fair to Stern, it is not safe to be a player in the NBA if you are driving on the wrong side of the road and in the throes of a giggling fit, with clouds of smoke seeping from your tinted windows.

Have a hit, man. This is some good stuff, some Canadian stuff.

In a haze or not, as one of the victims of the NBA’s “plantation system,” Wallace has decided that enough is enough, and no ifs, ands or fat paychecks about it.

Wallace is accepting $17 million from the Trail Blazers this season only because he is afraid of what might happen to him and his family if he tries to escape to a profession that nurtures his sense of freedom.

The definition of freedom long has been a sticking point between the league office and Wallace.

Wallace has been subjected to innumerable fines from the league office over the years, encouraged in part by his record 41 technical foul calls in the 2000-01 season. He also was the victim of a marijuana bust last season.

The pattern is unmistakable, the anxiety in Wallace’s life unbearable.

As always, “the man” is endeavoring to keep the brothers down, this time by coveting high school athletes who are “dumb and dumber,” in Wallace’s words.

“They don’t know no better, and they don’t know the real business,” he said. “They don’t see behind the charade.”

Wallace, like any good investigator, did not reveal his sources in the interview.

But this much is clear: His conscience, dignity and very being are no longer for sale, not even at $17 million this season.

Wallace has broken free from the shackles of the NBA. Now hear him roar.

He is a freedom-loving man, is what he is, a man’s man, a thinking man, a man who, most impressively, has managed to stay out of a straitjacket.

Give him liberty or give him more than $17 million a season to feel at peace.

One thing, Rasheed. Like it or not, in your tax bracket, you are the establishment.

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