Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Donald Sterling: blacklisted from the NBA

by Ava Jaulin with Germar Derron

For the moment, Donald Sterling remains the most hated person in America.

In the past week, the (former?) L.A. Clippers owner’s infamy riled even those who couldn't care less about basketball.  Apparently, a leaked recording of a racist tirade ruffles lots of feathers.

In the inflammatory tape, Sterling rants to V. Stiviano, someone who was described as a
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
girlfriend.  The familiarity in tone and frequently used terms like “sweetie” and “honey” would back that characterization.  The relationship raised questions, before news of the recording, due to a half-century age difference between the older man and younger woman. 

Further, Sterling—a white Jewish man—stays involved in race-related hot water. Sterling’s hate-talk and dubious dealings typically involve African-Americans and Mexicans.  V. Stiviano states that she is of black and Mexican decent. 

Later, in a statement from her lawyer, she claimed that the relationship was mis-characterized by media.  According to Stiviano, she maintains a close friendship with Sterling that does not resemble a romantic relationship of any kind.

The rant, triggered by a photo Stiviano posted on her Instagram that included Magic Johnson, best illustrates what’s said behind closed doors. Sterling’s issue?  He worried that “the world will think certain things if you're seen with black people, so you should not be seen with them in public, and under no circumstances should you bring them to Clippers’ games.”

Stiviano reminded him of his predominantly black team. That pushed a button. He responded quickly:

I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners that created the league?

This quote depicts, what Aisha Tyler of CBS’ The Talk, calls the “slave master complex.”

The tape goes on and on. The initial posting, from TMZ, lasts about nine minutes. Within hours, Deadspin released a fifteen minute version. Sterling not only attacks African-Americans, but more specifically black Jews as well. He says that the latter are “a hundred percent, fifty, a hundred percent [less than]” white Jews.  

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Politics aside, Sterling supporters exist, in a very loud minority. One anonymous internet man says “It was a setup. She sounds like she’s reading from a script. The way she says baby and honey is so fake. I could never be with a woman like that.” Another adds “he clearly doesn't hate black people. Just that she’s a hot girl out with other dudes.”  

The only person of note, who seems to not express utter contempt for the team owner, is NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  He wrote an op-ed for, where he doesn't defend Sterling, but points a very long finger at his critics. Abdul-Jabbar asks why Sterling’s past manifestations of racism failed to shock in a similar manner.  He charges that “[media] caught big game on a slow news day.” And he compares Stiviano to “a sexy nanny playing ‘pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.’”

Sterling’s “non-defenders” absolve him by attacking Stiviano’s character. But the public knows little to nothing about Stiviano. Acknowledging the NBA’s social history, terms like “groupie” or “gold-digger” are inappropriate and even laughable in this case.

Most of the public’s Stiviano-focused rage relates to her secret recording of a private conversation, and its subsequent release.  Stiviano remained quiet initially, but has gone on to deny releasing the recording.  Also, she claimed that Sterling ordered recordings of many of his conversations, to listen to and refresh his memory later.  She believes that hundreds of hours of their conversations are captured.

Fortunately, for the state of the union, these uninformed voices are loud, but not powerful or dominant. Justice was served.

On Tuesday, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that Sterling would serve a lifetime ban from
Adam Silver Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
the entire NBA, and pay a 2.5 million dollar fine.

Credit should go to league stars like Magic Johnson, who stated that he and his wife “will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner." Lebron James declared "there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There is no room for him."

Reportedly, NBA players, including the Warriors (the Clippers current playoff opponents), strongly considered boycotting playoff games, if Commissioner Silver’s ruling was less than harsh and exemplary.  In fact, players' union Vice President, Roger Mason Jr., allegedly spoke to representatives from every playoff team about the possibility of boycotting games in solidarity against any ruling that didn't include a directive for Sterling to sell the Clippers.  The playoffs saw a full slate of action last night; the Clippers won.

Silver is forcing Sterling to sell the team. 

Potentially, the fans deserve the bulk of the credit. One fan wrote:

People are upset that Donald Sterling was punished because they think his freedom of speech was infringed upon. What they need to understand is that that particular freedom is protecting people from being persecuted and arrested, it doesn't protect a person from being punished by their "boss" for causing a detrimental rift in the entirety of an organization, such as the NBA, for which they represent. Freedom of speech need not apply when you embarrass and alienate your peers and the Association as a whole by saying odd and inflammatory [expletive].

A multitude of similar reactions flooded the web. The fans aren’t happy and that affects
Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Getty Images
business.  Sports are fun, but the NBA is a business.  Therefore, Adam Silver's decision to ban Sterling for life makes sense – both common and business. It’s refreshing to witness Americans band together against an evil - outside of a school shooting or a bombing. 

Hopefully, the likes of Sterling now fully comprehend that freedom of speech has little to do with private bigotry. They may never be jailed for their hatred, but there will be consequences.

In the words of Dr. Harry Edwards, a race and sports scholar, ''We can't remove racism from American society any more than we can remove murder, but just because we can't remove it . . . doesn't mean we shouldn't fight it.”


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