As the Mets’ Lastings Milledge continues to be pilloried for his hip hop sideline, Newsday’s Shaun Powell (above, right) opines Da Edge “didn’t rap about anything you can’t hear walking down the street or taking the bus or subway,” and along with cranking up the pity party for Don Imus (!), suggests there are more worthy targets of the media’s outrage.

Milledge is only 22 and heavily into hip hop. What did you expect him to rap about, the ecology, the way Marvin Gaye so eloquently addressed in “Mercy, Mercy Me,” one of the greatest pop music recordings ever? No, unfortunately, that era is gone and missing from the top of the charts and the minds of impressionable young people. Instead, their heroes are two individuals connected to the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Jersey Nets, who played last night in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series. And in this case, the two individuals in question aren’t LeBron James or Jason Kidd.

One is Nelly, a part-owner of the Cavs, while Jay-Z has a piece of the Nets. They’ve got far bigger clout with young America than any player on those teams or any other team. These guys are music royalty, kings of the charts, worshipped on the gritty streets of Harlem as well as the lush green lawns of Oyster Bay. You ought to check out their lyrics, which kids can recite, word for word, better than they can recite Shakespeare. Nelly and Jay-Z have made enough money from their records to buy their way into the NBA, which means two people whose financial empires were built on such lyrics are currently sitting in the boardroom of sports.

Oh, and if that’s not sick enough, their videos for years were in heavy rotation on BET, the cable company formed by Bob Johnson, a billionaire who now owns the Bobcats.

See where I’m going?

Why knock Milledge, the symptom of the problem, instead of directing your frustration at those who helped cause the problem?

And are still profiting big-time from it?

Oddly enough, David Stern and the NBA are too busy ruining a great playoff series by punishing the Suns and Amare Stoudemire for tiptoeing on the court instead of taking some of their owners to task for polluting the air(waves). Nobody in the NBA made a big stink about Nelly and Jay-Z because everyone in the NBA, especially the players, are too busy bowing at their feet and filling up their iPods. Just like a good number of music fans in America.

I don’t wanna accuse Powell of being as culturally unaware, as well, Phil Mushnick, but holding Jay-Z, Nelly or Lastings Milledge to the standard of Marvin Gaye is kind of like saying Scott Radinsky’s Scared Straight should’ve been more Dylanesque. The very fact that such artists don’t appeal to the sensibilities of Powell, Whitlock, Oprah Winfrey, etc. might just have a tiny bit to do with their appeal.

I for one, applaud the NBA for diversifying the league’s ownership ranks, and dearly look forward to the day when Necro purchases a majority share of the New York Knicks from James Dolan.