In his first major press conference, new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver yesterday announced that the L.A. Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling has been banned from the sport and will be fined $2.5 million. And if 75% of the NBA owners agree, Sterling will be forced to sell the Clippers.
Y’know, this ol’ Captain has had some bad hair days before, but this is amazing!
For all my Luddite readers out there, here’s a brief recap of where we’ve been this week:
-An audio tape was released to TMZ and Deadspin of Donald Sterling making some pretty racist statements. The source and circumstances of the tape are still unknown, but it was enough to set Sterling’s world on fire!
-The team is angry, as is the Players Union.
-Corporate sponsors have fled like rats off a burning ship.
-Rev. Al Sharpton and all the usual “talking heads” on TV are ranting.
-Even President Obama weighed in with his opinion.
-Pressure was applied to the NBA to do something.
And now they have.
But, at the risk of being lumped together with the likes of Bill Kristol and Donald Trump – Lord forgive me! – the Captain wonders if perhaps the NBA has over-reacted.
The fine of $2.5 million is the largest the NBA by-laws will allow. The Commissioner seemed to regret that it could not be larger. That fine will have little impact on Sterling, who is reportedly worth $1.9 billion. In fact, in the past four years, he has give more than that to his 31-year-old [alleged] girlfriend.
So says Sterling’s estranged wife in their divorce proceedings.
But a lifetime ban from the NBA?
That means he cannot attend games – even practice sessions – of the team he owns. He cannot set foot on NBA property – again, some of which he owns. He can have no contact with any of his team, his coaches, his front office, etc. – all of whom receive paychecks with his name on them.
And if Commissioner Silver has his way, Sterling will be forced to sell his team, which he bought in 1981 for $12.5 million and has turned into a $575 million gold mine!
All this came about because Donald Sterling was somehow recorded making racist statements over the telephone to his [alleged] girlfriend – who happens to be part black and part Mexican… and maybe a little silicone too.
V. Stiviano’s attorney insists Stiviano’s relationship with Sterling was professional, not sexual or romantic – she was doing “clerical work” for him.
Sure, Sterling has had some trouble in the past for racist statements and discrimination. For instance, in 2006 he was charged with discrimination for refusing to rent units in his housing developments to blacks and Hispanics, reportedly saying they stunk up the place and attracted rats. He settled with the US Department of Justice for $2.765 million.
But folks, the Captain has lived in Memphis, where good Christian white folks built and continue to foster private academies in response to the racial integration of the public schools; where realtors still “redline” properties indicating where they will and will not show houses to people of color; where entire neighborhoods of white people have moved away when people of color have moved in (some completely abandoning their properties instead of trying to sell them).
I’m not saying any of this is acceptable. It is not. What I am saying is that racism is not unique to Donald Sterling.
ESPN host Bomani Jones called out Sterling in 2006 for discriminatory practices in housing units he owned. And in response to the current situation, Jones points back to the housing discrimination as a much more significant issue.
"We hear all this stuff that goes on in Chicago and all these people who die, who lose their lives. All that stuff that's happening in Chicago is a byproduct of housing discrimination. … Housing discrimination is the biggest reason that we can point to historically for why we've got all these dead kids in Chicago fighting for turf, fighting for real estate with poor accommodations and facilities and everything that you're supposed to have in a city, poor education, all of this because the tax dollars and everything else decided to move away."
"When we start looking at all these people in these lists who are dying as an economic byproduct of the people like Donald Sterling and you now have a problem because, oh my God, he said something that intimated that he doesn't respect his players? I'm calling you out as a fraud."
Perhaps the donations Sterling’s foundation made to the United Negro College Fund, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum for Tolerance, Special Olympics, and the Union Rescue Mission (just to name a few) were simply payoffs to get people off his back.
And maybe the 2008 Humanitarian of the Year Award given to Sterling by the Black Business Association was a fluke. As was the 2009 NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award… and the second NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award that was scheduled to be presented to him on May 15th of this year (which has since been withdrawn).
Ironically, the NAACP has strongly condemned Sterling in a recent letter to its constituents: “The saddest chapter in this story is that the remarks by Mr. Sterling are not at all surprising, given his history of hateful comments for people of other races.”
But the irony was not lost on them:
“We also know there is disappointment that such a man was to be honored with an award by the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP. There is no excuse for this. We are investigating the shortcomings in the process that allowed this award to be proposed for Donald Sterling. You demand better of America’s oldest and boldest civil rights organization, and we will do better.”
I understand the NBA’s position. It’s bad P.R. The Commissioner felt something had to be done or this unfortunate incident would create a ripple effect that could cripple the NBA.
But after listening to what Sterling actually said, I’m wondering if The Commissioner might have over-reacted just a tad bit, levying such a heavy penalty only three days after the audio tape was exposed. After all,
-Sterling didn’t call anyone a “n----r” like Paula Deen did.
-He didn’t suggest that blacks would be better off if slavery was still legal, as rancher Cliven Bundy and “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson have recently suggested.
-He didn’t call anyone a “subhuman mongrel” like Ted Nugent did, referring to none other than the President of the United States – an attitude which, by the way, got Nugent a seat of honor at the 2013 State of the Union Address, courtesy of some Republican allies in Congress.
-He didn’t associate blacks with crime like Minnesota State Rep. Pat Garofalo did recently, tweeting, “Let’s be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/possible exception of increase in streetcrime.”
-He didn’t claim that “racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime” and are more “prone to commit acts violence” as did Judge Edith Jones (Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Houston) in a commencement address last year at University of Pennsylvania.
-He didn’t call anyone a “Black Hole” (surely an astronomical reference) as that blowhard Rush Limbaugh did in reference to CNN’s Don Lemon… right before adding that Lemon “sleeps with men… proudly”.
What Sterling said was that he didn’t want his [alleged] girlfriend posting pictures of herself with blacks on Instagram, and bringing blacks with her to the Clippers games.
I’m not saying that Donald Sterling is an angel. I’m not even saying he was “misunderstood”. And from everything I have read and heard about him these past four days, I have no doubt he is a racist.
But as demonstrated above, most of white America is too. We just don’t get recorded saying what we think.
But this is America.
And in America, we still have a Constitutional right to express our opinions.
No matter how ignorant or offensive our opinions may be.
I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it.
Commissioner Silver, now in his third month as head of the NBA, felt the need to assert himself. Good for him. And, honestly, I hope he doesn’t stop with Donald Sterling, but can rid the entire organization of racism.
Bringing in more minorities to the 98% white NBA owners group would be a good start.
But frankly, I doubt this penalty will change Donald Sterling’s mind on issues of race. In fact, it will most likely only inflame his hatred.
So lean in here for a moment and think with the Captain: what if instead of this “death penalty” sentence, The Commissioner had tried to redeem this man, offering him an option of counseling and sensitivity training over losing his team. That might have served Donald Sterling – and all of us – better in the long run.
But that was not the judgment. And most of the world is rejoicing that a terrible racist has been punished. We will all sleep better tonight.
Just realize that if Sterling is now forced to sell his team, he stands to make a $562.5 million profit.
That’s gotta hurt…