An NBA team has drawn some criticism from its city for being a little too pale. The 2012 Minnesota Timberwolves will open the season with an astonishing five out of 15 African American players (33 percent), and only one black starter. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, it will be the league’s whitest roster since the 1980s Boston Celtics.

Some civil rights leaders in Minneapolis are calling foul.

Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul’s African American leadership council, was incredulous, telling the Star-Tribune that he thinks the roster looks like a ploy by the ownership to sell the team to a majority-white fan base.

“How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?” Terrell said to the Star-Tribune. “I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance.”

Ron Edwards, a longtime Minneapolis civil rights advocate, told the paper that last year it was “somewhat disturbing” when he saw a game where Wes Johnson was the only black player on the floor for the Timberwolves. He was even more distressed about this year’s 33 percent team.

“It raises some real questions to me about what’s really intended,” Edwards said. “I think, personally, that it was calculated. Is this an attempt to get fans back in the stands? Minnesota, after all, is a pretty white state.”

Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said claims of racial bias toward white players were “patently false.”

Half of the team’s “white” players, though, are actually international competitors. Five of the 10 were born outside of the US.

Last year, the league was made up of 78 percent African-American players, so what does the existence of an NBA team that is two-thirds white really mean?

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