by Sean Begin and Navindra Persaud
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling cast a dark shadow upon his team with racially charged remarks that he allegedly made, as first reported by TMZ.
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” said the man alleged to be Sterling in the audio clip.
The comments were recorded by Sterling’s then-girlfriend and mistress, V. Stiviano, who is currently being sued for almost $2 million by Sterling’s wife for embezzlement.
Sterling also referred to NBA legend and former Los Angeles guard Magic Johnson in his comments. It was a photo of Johnson and Stiviano on her Instagram that sparked Sterling’s comments.
“Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”
In response to these remarks Johnson responded on Twitter saying “I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African-Americans.”
Johnson has said he and his wife will no longer be attending Clippers games in the future while Sterling remains owner.
These comments have naturally caused outrage amongst people involved with the NBA on every level, from owners and executives to players and the media who cover the sport.
The irony in this all is that Sterling is the owner of the Clippers whose entire success has been thanks to the players and coaches on the team, who are predominantly black. The NBA itself is an African-American dominant league, with over 70 percent of its players identifying as black.
If indeed the investigation proves that Sterling did make these comments (his side claims they are not him), he does not deserve to have a place in the league let alone own a team.
LeBron James, who is arguably the face of the NBA the same way Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan before him, spoke on the matter after his teams win over the Bobcats.
“I’ve wavered back and forth if I would actually sit out, if our owner came out and said the things that he said. I would really have to sit down with my teammates, talk to my family, because at the end of the day, our family and our teammates are way more important than that. But there’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There’s no room for him.”
It is easy to understand the frustration that Clippers players and others around the league have and the mental battle that they face having to decide whether they should play for an owner who would allegedly make such callous statements.
It was refreshing to hear that the Clippers continued to participate in Sunday’s game despite the remarks allegedly made by Sterling. Their silent protest came during the pregame shoot around, when they left their warm-ups at center court and wore regular red t-shirts. The Clippers fell to the Warriors 118-97, evening the series at two games each.
The entire scenario seemed to weigh heavy on the players during the game. There seemed to be a dark cloud hanging over the team. As the starters sat on the bench for the remainder of the day there was a look of utter despair.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a public statement calling the audio recordings disturbing and stating that the NBA will work to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible. Silver said that he would not discuss any moves towards punishment because all members of the NBA do in fact have a due process to state their side of the story.
Silver is just three months on the job, after taking over for David Stern, who served as commissioner for 30 years before retiring in January. This incident is an immediate test of his ability to exert control over the 30 owners who voted him in as commissioner.
What needs to be answered his why the league failed to acknowledge or sanction Sterling for his prior racist and actions and comments. The uproar now is justified but could have easily been avoided had owners made a stand previously. But since the Clippers for years were the laughing stock of the NBA, his actions were pushed aside and ignored.
Well, that cannot and will not be ignored any longer.
Even Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and notorious fence rider, condemned the comments Sterling made. The owners will have no choice but to try and force Sterling from his ownership. His comments are, after all, bad for business. And, for better or worse, money does talk. As of Monday evening, more than half a dozen companies had withdrawn their corporate sponsorship with the Clippers.
Its clear Sterling has no place in the league anymore. What’s clearer is Sterling shouldn’t have had a place in the league for years though. But when you consider the people who also own NBA teams – guys like Cavalier’s owner Dan Gilbert who made millions in mortgages while the economy collapsed or Magic owner Richard DeVos who has dumped millions of dollars into anti-gay marriage initiatives – you see a fraternity that has hidden on of their members.
While the words and attitudes expressed by Sterling are horrible and contemptible, it is not the first time his racism has surfaced nor is this nearly the most racist thing Sterling has done.
Sterling was sued by the federal government for housing discrimination back in 2003 with documents of his testimony surfacing in 2006. In those documents, Sterling said black people attract vermin and had no place living in his housing. He settled out of court, reportedly in the largest settlement in history over discrimination.
So while what Sterling said is reprehensible, this outrage should have surfaced over a decade ago. Housing discrimination can lead to incredible levels of violence: see Chicago in 2014, where people die every day over land and territory with little education or opportunity.
It’s time for Sterling to go, but its time for everyone to look at the larger problems, for once, and try and solve them, rather than lose their cool over some unsurprising comments made by an 81-year-old man.