HBO Sports Documentary Blames Reagan for Racial Tension that Scarred Larry Bird

Catching up with an HBO sports documentary which ran several times in March: ‘Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals,’ painted Boston Celtics basketball star Larry Bird as the victim of a racist national milieu exacerbated by President Ronald Reagan -- a formulation which relied on the expert assessment of a journalist who a few years ago contended that if only Senator Ted Kennedy hadn’t killed her, he “would have brought comfort...in her old age” to Mary Jo Kopechne. Over video zooming in on Reagan at his Oval Office desk, HBO’s narrator intoned:
But as Magic enjoyed his image as a crossover star, it was Bird, the one-time great white hope, who had further emerged as the polarizing racial figure due in part to that era's increasingly conservative political climate.
Then, the Boston Globe’s Charles Pierce argued “the triumph of the movement” that supposedly “rolled back” civil rights “took place in the 1980s” and that caused “sublimated frustration” amongst black Americans “and I think one of the ways it got sublimated was into basketball” with Bird catching those “lingering resentments.” On screen as Pierce spoke, this New York Times headline:
STUDY SAYS BLACKS HAVE LOST GROUND
Finds Reagan's Policies Have Hurt the Poor and Imperil Emerging Middle Class
Followed by a Washington Post headline: “56% Say President Is a Racist.”

AUDIO: MP3 clip.

Hat tip to the persistent Tony Cocco, a Bay Stater who alerted us to the slam on Reagan and followed up with a reminder after he saw the documentary air again.

Pierce is infamous for his 2003 Globe Magazine tribute to Ted Kennedy in which he ludicrously postulated: “If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne  would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.”

Also, from a few months ago: “Nine Days Before Election, Boston Globe's Pierce Ridiculed Notion Brown Could Win.”

From the HBO documentary:
ARSENIO HALL: Has the "N" word ever been used by a white person to describe Ervin? I doubt it.

NARRATOR: But as Magic enjoyed his image as a crossover star, it was Bird, the one-time great white hope, who had further emerged as the polarizing racial figure due in part to that era's increasingly conservative political climate. [on screen: zoom in on Reagan]

CHARLES PIERCE, BOSTON GLOBE: The rolling back, institutionally, of the achievements of the civil rights movement were going on apace from about 1975 on, but the triumph of the movement that rolled them back took place in the 1980s. And I think there was people who were very aware in the black community of what was going on, and I think there was a lot of sublimated frustration. And I think one of the ways it got sublimated was into basketball. And I think Larry, through no fault of his own, was the receptacle within which the lingering resentments somehow floated.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center