Donald Sterling is old racist bastard. This is not news, he’s been that way for a long, long time. Yet listen to any radio station or watch any “news” channel, sports or otherwise, and this is the shocker of the year. As vile and reprehensible as the statments made by Sterling in the recording it is hardly news.
This is the same guy that was sued by long time Clippers’ executive, Elgin Baylor, for employment discrimination based on race and age. Baylor alleged in the suit that Sterling said, “I want to fill the team with poor black boys from the south and a white head coach.” A white head coach that Sterling gave significantly more money to than the African American Baylor who had been with the franchise for much longer.
Then there was the 2006 lawsuit based on Sterling’s housing practices where he refused to sell properties based on race. He did not sell to non-Koreans in Korea Town. Sterling refused to sell to Hispanics because, “they smoke, drink, and just hang around the building.” And would refuse to sell properties in Beverly Hills to black people because black tenants, “Smell and attract vermin.” And let’s not forget Sterling’s claim to us $50 million on affordable housing to decrease the sizable homeless population in Los Angeles through his foundation. A claim that helped him win a 2009 NAACP Lifetime Achievement award, oh the irony, yet nothing has been built on the land now eight years later.
It’s impossible for me to believe that no other owners in the NBA nor David Stern and his cronies were unaware of Sterling’s attitude towards race, yet allowed him to continue owning a franchise in a sport dominated by Black athletes. Now, as the cry for Sterling’s head is at peak volume, is not the time to do what they should’ve done years ago. The NBA should be forced to lie in the stinky bed it made. Beyond being an out-of-touch, outdated racist bastard, Sterling has also been a terrible owner. Constantly cutting corners and doing everything on the cheap in order to pursue profits over championships Sterling has lead the worst franchise, record wise, in the NBA since he took over ownership. But his philosophy has worked, buying the team in 1982 for $12.5 million, the team is now valued at $575 million. Even factoring in inflation that is quite a payday for the billionaire.
Beyond the hypocrisy of forcibly removing Sterling the NBA also does not have much legal precedence. Sure his statements are disgusting and ignorant, but there is nothing illegal about them. He was having a private conversation with his girlfriend that he was unaware was being recorded. It does not make what he said okay, but the dubious way it came out would not stand in any court of law. Sterling’s punishment cannot come through legal action, but the court of public opinion definitely has precedence to punish him with vigor. People who want his head on a stick surprise me. It is never a good idea to respond to intolerance with intolerance. Sterling is free to have his own thoughts and opinions just like everyone else. If you do not like his opinions, which is almost everyone, then don’t listen or support him. People can stop going to games, stop putting money in his pocket if you do not like what he is saying, but they cannot take away the team he rightfully bought. Let the market force him out, if the Clippers become economic burden by losing sponsors and having dwindling attendance, then Sterling will be forced to either sell the team or take the financial hits.
Part of the reason for the uproar is how outdated Sterling’s views are, which is the silver lining in all of this. 30 years ago, when Sterling bought the team, most people would not have batted an eye towards such comments. The country was not far removed from Jim Crow laws and a segregated country. It was still common for the N-word to be used casually in conversation and there was a greater percentage of people who thought like Sterling than there is now. He is a dying breed, old white men whom were raised under the belief that minorities were inferior by nature. It does not make it okay to have these beliefs, but everyone needs to understand that this has been ingrained in people for Centuries. The only way for things to truly change is for these older generations to die off and our more socially progressive generation to gain power in society. Unfortunately this is just the way change happens, it would be great if it could be sped up, but unless someone is willing to commit genocide we’ll all just have to patiently wait.