Selling the Mavs is a Faustian bargain for Mark Cuban

Selling the Mavs is a Faustian bargain for Mark Cuban

What do Donald Trump, casinos, the Holocaust, and the Dallas Mavericks have in common? The answer can be found in a comic book. In Art Spiegelman’s seminal tome on his family’s survival of the Holocaust, the graphic novel Maus, the underground comix writer analyzes the cyclical effect of trauma, not just how trauma’s effects beget equally loud acts of violence but also its tendency to perpetuate quieter, behind-the-scenes damage.

In this modern American masterwork, Spiegelman uses his father, Vladek, as the avatar of his concentration camp epic. The series shows Vladek finding humanity within the horror, eventually surviving to start a family while never being able to shake off the moral degradation the Holocaust plagued him with. In his older years, Vladek becomes a perpetrator of harm, never at the bombastic scale of the Nazis, but in quieter ways that limit empathy and poison love, taking those around him for granted and lashing out in racist declarations.

It makes for a complicated central character, one we transpose our humanity on during World War 2 but then struggle to identify with as our POV changes as he ages into a broken, humiliated “free man.” It paints one of the most complex portraits of the damage of trauma and how it infects generations of families, continuing harmful traditions and ideals, as heroes become villains while remaining survivors of abuse.

Now, back to basketball. Last week, it was announced that Mark Cuban, the long-time, outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who delivered the franchise’s first championship in 2011, would sell a majority stake of the team’s ownership to Miriam Adelson. It was a shocking move, as Cuban has been one of the most, if not the most, hands-on owners in the NBA. He has been revealed to be the team’s “shadow general manager”, even as the franchise was plagued by allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and workplace corruption.

This is essential context in considering who Cuban has sold the soul of the Mavs to as he steps away as majority owner, but continues to be hands-on in operations for “forevermore.” So, who is Adelman? According to Forbes, she is a 78-year-old Las Vegas casino magnate and the fifth-richest woman in the world, with a net worth of $35 billion. She gained her vast net worth as the widow of Sheldon Adelson, the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who died in 2021 at 87. Following her husband’s death, Adelson took over majority control of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

It’s obvious Cuban is looking towards gambling becoming legal in Texas, a cause Adelman has given millions to over various Republican electoral donations. There is nothing morally wrong with that, especially in America, where public policy is dictated by the wealthy and, in the case of Israel, foreign interests. To make his reality of a Dallas-based casino and new stadium for his Mavs, he has partnered with a lobbyist who has dedicated much of her life to the cause. On paper, it makes sense.

This is where all our analogies and disparate threads converge. Born Miriam Farbstein on Oct. 10, 1945, in Tel Aviv, Adelson’s life was marked by resilience and compassion. She was born amid the turmoil of World War II, as her Jewish parents had fled Poland in the 1930s to seek refuge in what was then known as the British Mandate of Palestine. Her grandparents and extended family reportedly perished in the Holocaust, a tragic loss that would shape her worldview.

Adelson’s upbringing in Haifa, Israel, was infused with the spirit of a young nation. Upon reaching adulthood, she fulfilled her mandatory military service with the Israel Defense Forces, where her medical expertise led her to work with sex workers struggling with addiction. This poignant encounter with the depths of human suffering left an indelible mark on Adelson, fueling her lifelong dedication to addressing substance abuse and its devastating consequences.

Former President Donald Trump was the loudest supporter of Israel in recent memory, the first to publicly state his support for moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem or to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. During the 2020 election, the Adelsons were the single largest individual financial supporters of Trump’s re-election campaign, donating $75 million to a Trump super PAC while giving a total of $172 million in 2020 election GOP initiatives. Regarding Republicans, Miriam and her late husband were kingmakers for the Republican party, donating $120 million to 180 Republican Congressional and Senate candidates.

It makes sense, as a child of Holocaust survivors, to be steadfast and use all means to support her people —who have suffered a nomadic existence since Biblical days — for the rights of their own country. President Trump presented Miriam with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for Adelson’s unwavering support in 2018. The honor is historically bestowed upon those who have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House. Adelson’s staunch support of Israel knows no bounds, including when it comes to acts of treason against the United States. Before Sheldon’s death, the couple flew Jonathon Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst who spent 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to spying on America for Israel, to Israel on their private 737. Imagine the response by conservatives, Republicans, and right-wing media if it had been for any other country but Israel.

In a Political article, Houston-based Republican donor Fred Zeidman, a longtime Adelson family friend who attended the RJC conference, described Miriam as “the power behind the throne. Sheldon never did anything without Miriam. She was always at his side. She drove a lot of his initiatives. They were inseparable.” When contemplating the history of Sheldon’s empire, it is impossible not to include Miriam as his right-hand woman in culpability.

Foreign policy has been the key defining issue area of the Adelsons’ political lobbying of right-wing groups over the last two decades, such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Israeli-American Council, United Against Nuclear Iran and the Zionist Organization of America — all of which the couple has financially supported over the last two decades. They withdrew their backing for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2007 because of Congressional support for economic aid for Palestinians. This is a critical footnote concerning the present and her soon majority ownership of an NBA team.

In a 2019 op-ed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a piece that could be defined as propaganda since the Adelsons own the publication, attacked Jewish Americans for voting overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates:

“By rights, Trump should enjoy sweeping support among the U.S. Jews, just as he does among Israelis. That this has not been the case (so far—the 2020 election still beckons) is an oddity that will long be pondered by historians. Scholars of the Bible will no doubt note the heroes, sages, and prophets of antiquity who were similarly spurned by the very people they came to raise up. Would it be too much to pray for a day when the Bible gets a ‘Book of Trump,’ much like it has a ‘Book of Esther’ celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from ancient Persia?”

Anyone who has read the Book of Esther knows how Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai saved the Jewish people from destruction by the Persian King Ahasuerus. To equate that to Trump, who led no army or lost any support by backing Israel, is a dangerous and disingenuous equivocation to a Biblical hero.

To Miriam, like Maus’ Vladek, the effects the Holocaust had on them both, accounting for unfathomable loss and misery, warped their worldviews and taught them lessons in potential prejudice. They failed to see their hypocrisy and bias. For Vladek, it was his views on African-Americans that he mimicked the racist rationale of the Nazis by assuming Blacks were inferior to Jews because of their physical characteristic. This widening of the gap between otherness is the same one used by Miriam Adelson when decrying anyone who criticizes any aspect of the current Gaza situation.

Cuban has been openly critical of Trump’s policies in the past, yet he just sold his most precious possession to Trump’s biggest financial supporter. On a podcast in 2020, Cuban lambasted Trump while reminiscing on a conversation he had with a friend,

“One of my friends in Texas explained it to me best when I said, ‘Look, I know this guy, he’s not smart. He only cares about himself. He’s going to put himself ahead of the country, which effectively is what he’s done. I said, ‘Why are you voting for him?’

And now Cuban has sold his team to the largest donor in the world to Trump and Trump-era policies. What a con.

Mavs fans have overlooked a lot on and off the court, including accusations of rape, sexual assault and corporate malfeasance. Will a winning season be enough to ignore an owner who was the number one contributor to Trump’s campaign? Currently, the Mavericks have the best attendance in the league. Whether that remains that way is uncertain, but we shall soon know the answer.

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.